The California Vehicle Code (CVC) comprises various laws and regulations governing the operation, registration, and licensing of vehicles within the state. One important aspect emphasized by the CVC involves ensuring the accuracy and truthfulness of information submitted to the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) or the California Highway Patrol (CHP). When an individual is pulled over by a California Highway Patrol officer or has any interaction with the California Department of Motor Vehicles, they are usually required to provide several pieces of information.
California Vehicle Code Section 20 VC is a state law that criminalizes the act of providing a false name or making a knowingly false statement to the California Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) or the California Highway Patrol (CHP). This offense is considered a misdemeanor, and if convicted, individuals may face penalties including up to 6 months in county jail and a maximum fine of $1,000.
Some inaccurate information provided to the DMV may not be intentional, there are instances where individuals deliberately make false statements in order to unlawfully obtain a license or vehicle registration. This can be done by individuals who do not possess valid identification or have a warrant for their arrest.
However, there are also cases where the provision of inaccurate information occurs unintentionally. Confusion when filling out the required forms, difficulty in understanding certain questions, spelling errors, illegible handwriting, or language barriers can all contribute to unintentional inaccuracies.
Most DMV and CHP forms include a signature line where individuals certify, under penalty of perjury, that the information provided is true and correct according to the laws of the State of California. This signature requirement seeks to ensure that individuals understand the seriousness of providing accurate information and serves as a deterrent to any potential false statements.
In order to secure a conviction under VC 20, involving the provision of false information to the DMV or CHP, the prosecution must establish several key elements of the offense, which include:
- Providing a written statement or information to either the DMV or CHP.
- The information or statement provided was false or misleading.
- The individual had knowledge that the information or statement was false or misleading.
- The purpose was to intentionally deceive by either providing false information or withholding material information.
For a successful conviction, the prosecution must demonstrate beyond a reasonable doubt that all these elements are met.
An individual is attempting to register a vehicle at the California Department of Motor Vehicles. As part of the registration process, the DMV requires the individual to provide a bill of sale that indicates the purchase price and previous ownership history of the vehicle. The individual, however, provides the DMV with a forged bill of sale that contains false information.
The bill of sale indicates that the individual purchased the vehicle for a much lower price than they actually did and that a different person was the previous owner instead of the true previous owner. The individual knows that the bill of sale is forged and that the information provided therein is false and misleading.
Providing false statements to the DMV or CHP under California Vehicle Code Section 20 VC constitutes a misdemeanor offense. If found guilty, the individual may face penalties that include a maximum of six months in jail and a $1,000 court fine. It is important to note that this offense can also lead to more serious felony charges such as perjury or forgery, which can result in even lengthier prison sentences.
Furthermore, since this offense involves dishonesty, it may be used as evidence to challenge the credibility of the individual in any future court proceedings. However, in some cases, a judge may grant misdemeanor probation instead of imposing a jail sentence.
Unlike certain Vehicle Code violations that result in points being assessed on the individual’s driving record, a violation of California Vehicle Code Section 20 VC does not affect the individual’s driving record. Nevertheless, it is important to be aware that a conviction for this offense will result in the individual having a criminal record, which can have long-term consequences on their personal and professional life.
Make sure you provide accurate and truthful information when completing paperwork for a driver’s license or vehicle registration. Ensuring the accuracy of the information not only helps maintain legal compliance but also prevents potential legal consequences that may arise from providing false statements or misleading information. By diligently providing accurate information, individuals can avoid the risk of facing charges, penalties, and negative impacts on their personal and professional lives that can result from providing false information to the DMV or CHP.
Criminal defense attorneys have a range of legal strategies available to challenge charges brought under this section of the code. Three common defenses include establishing that:
- no “material” fact was concealed.
- no knowing or intentional false statement was made.
- a peace officer stopped or arrested you without probable cause.
No Concealment of Material Fact
To secure a conviction under VC 20, the prosecutor needs to demonstrate that you intentionally concealed a “material” fact. A material fact is relevant and significant for the purpose of the application. Thus, you can defend against charges by demonstrating that although you did conceal information, it was not a material fact.
For instance, when applying for a commercial vehicle license, you may have concealed your actual weight due to embarrassment. In such a case, you cannot be charged under VC 20 as your actual weight is not considered a material fact.
No Knowing False Statement
Charges under VC 20 require prosecutors to prove that you knowingly made a false statement to the DMV or CHP. Challenging the accusations on the basis that you did not act knowingly is always a defense. This means you can demonstrate that you did not intend to make a false statement or did not know the statement given was false.
For example, if you provide an inaccurate license plate number in a report to the CHP, and it is due to an honest mistake or reasonable belief, you would not be guilty under VC 20.
No Probable Cause
The Fourth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution states that police must have probable cause before stopping or arresting you. As a result, you can assert the defense that law enforcement had no probable cause to arrest or detain you for the charges brought against you.
Under Section 40000.5 of the Vehicle Code, a violation of Section 20 is classified as a misdemeanor, not an infraction. The immigration consequences of a conviction under this section. In U.S. immigration law, certain criminal convictions can have serious effects on an individual’s immigration status. These consequences depend on the nature of the crime and its classification under immigration law.
A key category in immigration law is “Crimes Involving Moral Turpitude.” A conviction for a CIMT can lead to inadmissibility or deportation for non-citizens. Whether a violation of Section 20 VC constitutes a CIMT depends on the specific facts of the case and how these are interpreted in the context of immigration law. Generally, crimes involving deceit, fraud, or intent to harm others may be considered CIMTs.
Another significant category is “aggravated felonies.” A conviction for an aggravated felony can have severe immigration consequences, including deportation and permanent ineligibility for relief from removal. However, a misdemeanor under Section 20 VC is unlikely to be classified as an aggravated felony.
Immigration law is complex, and the determination of whether a specific conviction will have immigration consequences depends on a variety of factors, including the non-citizen’s current status, their immigration history, and the specifics of the conviction. Therefore, it is highly advisable for anyone facing criminal charges who is concerned about their immigration status to consult with an attorney who specializes in immigration law. If you do not have or know of an immigration lawyer, the Tabibnia Law Firm can refer you to one.
A conviction under Vehicle Code Section 20 can be expunged depends on several factors:
- Completion of Probation: The individual must have successfully completed probation, whether it was formal or informal (summary) probation.
- Eligibility: Not all offenses are eligible for expungement. Generally, most misdemeanors and some felonies qualify, but there are exceptions. As of 2023, you should verify if VC 20 falls under eligible offenses.
- No Ongoing Criminal Proceedings: The individual must not be currently charged with, on probation for, or serving a sentence for any other offense.
- Court Discretion: Even if all the eligibility criteria are met, expungement is still subject to the court’s discretion. The court will consider the individual’s entire criminal history, their conduct since the conviction, and how the expungement would serve the interests of justice.
It’s important to consult with a legal professional to get the most accurate and current advice, as they can assess individual circumstances and provide guidance on the likelihood of a successful expungement petition. Legal requirements and interpretations can evolve, and a professional will have the most up-to-date information
- False Identification to Police – California Penal Code Section 148.9 PC
- False Information to a Peace Officer – California Vehicle Code Section 31 VC
- Perjury – California Penal Code Section 118 PC
- Forgery of a Driver’s License – California Penal Code Section 470A PC
- Possessing a Fake Driver’s License – California Penal Code Section 470B PC
- Forging or Possessing a Fraudulent Public Seal – California Penal Code Section 472 PC
- Fraudulent Vehicle Registration – California Vehicle Code Section 4463
- Driving on a suspended license – Vehicle Code 14601 VC
- Driving without a valid license – Vehicle Code 12500(a) VC
- Driving without proof of insurance – Vehicle Code 16028 VC
- Making a false report of a crime – Penal Code 148.5 PC
Speak With Criminal Defense Lawyer From Tabibnia Law Firm
If you are facing charges related to providing false statements to the DMV or CHP, it is crucial to seek legal counsel from a competent Los Angeles Criminal Defense Attorney promptly. Cyrus Tabibnia, a criminal defense attorney with over 18 years of experience, possesses the expertise and knowledge necessary to effectively defend against such charges. Mr. Cyrus is dedicated to providing his clients with top-notch representation.
To learn more about the implications of providing false statements to the DMV or CHP and to schedule a free consultation, you can reach out to Los Angeles Criminal Defense Lawyer Cyrus Tabibnia at the Tabibnia Law Firm by calling 866-713-2159.