Forgery or Falsification of Car Registration Stickers

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Overview

car registration page

If you tempered with any document or device designed to provide evidence of current car registration, you may have violated this offense.  For example, if you have paid to obtain a false certificate of car ownership, or have displayed false registration stickers, you can be charged with Forgery or Falsification of Car Registration Stickers under Vehicle Code 4463.

What is Forgery or Falsification of Car Registration Stickers?

The Vehicle Code Section 4463 essentially defines the offense as the intentional fraudulent altering forging of car registration, license plate, or registration stickers, or intentionally displaying false forged license plate, registration stickers, or car registration …1 Examples:

  • Displaying a fake registration sticker
  • Altering your originally issued license plate
  • Carrying and presenting a counterfeit license

Example: A man made fake licenses designed to pass police checks in exchange for money.  The man can be convicted of forgery under Vehicle Code section 4463, as well as Conspiracy under Penal Code section 182 , because the man made, forged, and counterfeited licenses without authority with the intent to represent that they were issued by the Department of Motor Vehicles and with the intent that they pass police checks.  Additionally, the man collaborated with paying customers who paid him money in return for the fake licenses.

How Does the Prosecutor Prove Forgery or Falsification of Car Registration Stickers?

prosecutor accusing defendant

To prove that you are guilty of this offense, the prosecutor has to prove the following facts or elements.2

  • You have committed any of the acts with the intent to prejudice, damage, or defraud ((The intent required for this offense is essentially intent to commit fraud in order to avoid paying for car registration renewal, smog check, or some other related car registration expense)):
  • Altered, forged, counterfeited, falsified any of the following documents: certificate of ownership, registration card, certificate, license, license plate, special plate, registration card, certificate, license, license plate, or permit provided for by a foreign jurisdiction; OR
  • Displayed or caused or permitted to be displayed or have in his or her possession a blank, incomplete, canceled, suspended, revoked, altered, forged, counterfeit, or false: certificate of ownership, registration card, certificate, license, license plate; OR
  • published, passed, or attempted to pass, as true and genuine, a false, altered, forged, or counterfeited any of the documents listed above, knowing it to be false, altered, forged, or counterfeited.

Example: A man took a registration sticker assigned to his neighbor’s car and placed it on his car to make it appear that his car’s registration is current.  Because the man did so with the intent to avoid paying for his own registration sticker, he can be charged with this offense.

Legal Defenses

No Intent to Defraud:  If you did not intend to defraud, you cannot be convicted of this offense.  For example, consider a situation where you yourself were an innocent victim of fraud.  You purchased a vehicle that was in fact stolen and the registration documents were forged prior to the purchase.

Insufficient Evidence of Intent to Defraud: If the prosecutor does not have sufficient evidence to show that you had intent to defraud, you cannot be convicted of this offense.  However, keep in mind that the prosecution can use both sufficient indirect and direct evidence to convict you.

Example of insufficient evidence: Defendant mailed in a fake smog check certificate with his registration renewal.  The defendant claimed that he went to the shop and saw a sign that stated “Pass or Don’t Pay,” so when the smog inspector told him his car passed the check, he was happy to pay the fee.  In this case, unless the prosecution can show that the defendant car has not passed the smog check last year, it may not have sufficient evidence to charge the defendant with the offense because he may have been an innocent victim of fraud.

Example of sufficient evidence: However, consider another example.  Defendant (the owner of the smog check shop) provided false smog check certificates at his auto repair shop.  His shop advertised “Pass or Don’t Pay.”  He claimed that there was insufficient direct evidence to show that he in fact conducted fake smog checks, or that his shop issued such certificates.  The prosecution was able to produce a copy of one of the false certificates bearing defendant’s signature, the auto shop’s address, as well as, evidence linking the defendant to the shop as the registrant of the business.  Finally, there were witnesses who could testify to the fact that the defendant is present at the address listed on the fake inspection slip almost every day of the week.  In this case, there is sufficient evidence to link the defendant to the fraud and he will be convicted of the offense.

Penalties

This offense can be charged as either a felony or misdemeanor, depending on the facts of the case and the criminal history of a defendant.

Misdemeanor:  If charged as a misdemeanor, the defendant may face imprisonment of up to 1 year in a county jail and a maximum fee of $1,000. Felony: If charged as a felony, the defendant may face 16 months, two or three years in the California state prison, and a maximum fine of up to $10,000.

Related Offenses

False Statements to DMV or CHP:  Under Vehicle Code 20 , If you used a false or fake name at the DMV, you may have violated this section of the Vehicle Code.  Likewise, if you knowingly made false a statement, or knowingly concealed any material fact in a document that you filed with the DMV, you may be found guilty of this offense.  If convicted, you face being charged with a misdemeanor punishable by up to 6 months in jail and a $1,000 fine.

Providing False Information to a Peace or Police Officer: Under Vehicle Code 31 , if you have given false information to a peace officer, either in writing or orally, you probably violated this offense.  If convicted, you face being charged with a misdemeanor punishable by up to 6 months in jail and a $1,000 fine.

Forgery or Counterfeiting of Seals: Under Pen. Code, §472, if you forged or possessed a forged California DMV “seal” on an official registration document such as car registration, you may be guilty of this offense.  If convicted of this offense, you face the same penalties as listed above for violating Vehicle Code section 4463.

Forgery of Drivers License: Under Pen. Code, §470, if you possess a driver’s license or ID that has been forged, and you do so with the intent that the driver’s license or ID be used to facilitate forgery, you may be charged with this offense.  If convicted, you face imprisonment in a county jail for not more than one year, or by imprisonment pursuant to subdivision (h) of Section 1170.

How We Can Help

If you would like to speak to an attorney about a pending case contact the Aizman law firm at 818-351-9555 for a free consultation.

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Footnotes

  1. Vehicle Code 4463 []
  2. Elements. Vehicle Code Section 4463 []