Updated: Dec 15, 2020
Information on the crime of False Evidence of Vehicle Registration, also known as Vehicle Registration Fraud, can be found at California vehicle code section 4463 (VC4463(a)). This article serves as an overview of the law, the punishment, and the defenses related to VC 4463 crimes.
VC 4463 Law: A person who, with intent to prejudice, damage, or defraud, commits any of the following, is guilty of vehicle registration fraud: Alters, forges, counterfeits, or falsifies a certificate of ownership, registration card, certificate, license, license plate, temporary license plate…registration card, certificate, license, license plate, temporary license plate…or permit, or alters, forges, counterfeits, or falsifies a document, device, or plate with intent to represent it as issued by the department (DMV), or alters, forges, counterfeits, or falsifies with fraudulent intent an endorsement of transfer on a certificate of ownership or other document evidencing ownership, or with fraudulent intent displays or causes or permits 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, temporary license plate…special plate, or permit (VC 4463(a) Abbrev.).
In short, it is a violation of VC 4463 to knowingly make or pass false documents, which purport to be related to the true ownership or identification of vehicles, when the making or passing of those false documents is coupled with the intent to deceive or defraud another person (VC 4463(a) [Summarized]).
Note: It is also illegal for a person to make, sell, offer to make, offer to sell, or use Handicapped or Disabled Placards and Clean Air Stickers without government authorization (VC 4463(c) & 4463(e)(1)).
VC 4463 Punishment: The crime of vehicle registration fraud may be charged as a felony or as a misdemeanor in California. Punishment for a violation of vehicle registration fraud ranges from three years in jail (maximum felony jail sentence) to a probation or diversion sentence without jail. The following represents the most common punishments affiliated with VC 4463 convictions:
Felony VC 4463 Jail Sentence: The maximum jail sentence for a felony violation of VC 4463 is three years in jail. This maximum sentence is ordered in limited situations where the court finds aggravating factors present in the facts of the case, such as highly sophisticated operations, multiple violations, or severe loss to victim(s). The court’s has other sentencing options in VC 4463 cases, including a two year jail sentence (mid-term), a sixteen month jail sentence (low-term), or no jail (probation or diversion sentence). The filing charge for felony VC 4463 is usually labeled as VC4463-F.
Misdemeanor VC 4463 Jail Sentence: The maximum jail sentence for a misdemeanor violation of VC 4463 is one year in the county jail. This means that the court can order incarceration for the defendant in the range of no jail up to one year in jail. The filing charge for misdemeanor VC 4463 is usually labeled as VC4463-M.
Note: As stated, the crime of vehicle registration fraud may be charged as a felony or a as a misdemeanor. When a criminal charge may be filed as a felony or as a misdemeanor than the crime is called a wobbler. Wobbler crimes tend to be low-severity felonies or high-severity misdemeanors. Whether or not the district attorney files a felony or a misdemeanor charge for a wobbler crime depends largely on the sophistication on the criminal conduct, the defendant’s criminal history, the impact of the defendant’s conduct on any victim, and the terms of a negotiated plea agreement between the district attorney and the defendant, if any. Also, when a wobbler crime is initially charged as a felony the court may lower the classification to a misdemeanor upon request from the defendant (PC 17(b)). This occurs, if at all, usually after the preliminary hearing stage of the criminal proceedings. For more information, see Wobbler Crimes, Misdemeanors v. Felonies, and Preliminary Hearings.
Probation Sentence: A probation sentence is period of supervision instead of incarceration. A probation sentence is allowed, but not guaranteed, after a conviction for both misdemeanor and felony convictions of VC 4463. Probation sentences carry terms of probation that must be obeyed in order to remain on probation. The terms of probation for VC 4463 usually include orders to violate no law (misdemeanor or felony), pay fines, pay restitution to victim(s), and serve a term of work release, house arrest, or community service.
Felony probation is supervised by a probation officer and usually includes more stringent probation terms such as remain within the state of California, submit to a search of person or residence (Bravo Search), and appear before the probation officer periodically.
Misdemeanor probation is supervised by the Clerk of the Court. Failure to obey by the terms of probation can lead to a criminal charge of violation of probation, which could lead to actual jail for the defendant. On the other hand, sometimes the defendant might qualify to be released from a probation sentence early and without further punishment for various reasons. For more information, see Felony v. Misdemeanor Probation, Violation of Probation Crimes, & Early Termination of Probation.
Note: Work release is an out-of-custody manual labor order, such as an order to pick up trash around jails or freeways. House arrest is a stay-at-home order (during non-work hours). For house arrest, the defendant is required to wear an ankle monitor with a GPS tracking device that allows the probation officer to monitor the defendant's whereabouts. Work release and house arrest orders are common orders made in connection with probation sentences, including probation sentences related to VC 4463 (Vehicle Registration Fraud). For more information, see Work Release and House Arrest.
PC 1170(h) Sentencing: Felony VC 4463 incarceration is subject to PC 1170(h) sentencing. In short, this means that if the court does not grant a probation sentence to the defendant in a VC 4463 case, then the defendant will serve her incarceration in a local county jail, as opposed to a California state prison. In addition, any jail sentence imposed may be split (served half in jail and half out of jail on work release), or suspended (not served unless the defendant violates a term of her out-of-custody release). For more information, see PC 1170(h) Sentencing.
Good Behavior Credits: Both felony and misdemeanor VC 4463 jail sentences (and work release sentences) are subject to PC 4019 good behavior credits. In essence, this means that if the defendant serves her jail sentence (or work release sentence) with good behavior, then that sentence may be reduced by up to fifty percent (50%). For example, if the defendant is ordered to serve sixteen months of jail (low term) after a conviction for the crime of vehicle registration fraud, then the defendant may serve half of that jail sentence out of custody on work release (PC 1170(h) split sentence) and as to that out-of-custody half, she may have it reduced by up to fifty percent (50%) for good behavior while on work release. This means the sixteen month jail sentence actually becomes four months in jail and four months on work release.
Diversion Sentence: A diversion sentence is similar to a misdemeanor probation sentence. The difference is that after a diversion sentence is served the defendant’s criminal charges are dismissed as though she was not prosecuted in the first place; a successful completion of a probation sentence does not result in the criminal charges being dismissed. Essentially, to divert a prosecution means to go around, or divert away from, the criminal process. A diversion sentence is allowed in misdemeanor VC 4463 cases, but just like a probation sentence, a diversion sentence is not guaranteed. Whether or not the district attorney or the court offers a diversion sentence in a vehicle registration fraud case depends on several factors, including: whether or not the defendant has prior crimes that have been diverted within five years of the current offense, the defendant’s criminal history, the harm caused to any victim(s), and the disposition of a plea agreement between the district attorney and the defendant, if any. For more information, see Diversion Sentencing.
Note: In San Bernardino County most diversion programs are handled through the RISE program (non-prostitution cases) and the new prostitution diversion program.
CIMT: The crime of vehicle registration fraud is considered a crime involving moral turpitude (CIMT). A crime involving moral turpitude is just about any crime that involves deceit, fraud, theft, or is otherwise considered morally wrong. A CIMT, including VC 4463, can carry harsh collateral consequences for the defendant upon conviction. These collateral consequences include, but are not limited to, the following: Professional licensing suspension, revocation, discipline, probation, or ineligibility (i.e. teacher, nurse, doctor, dentist, lawyer, therapist, etc.), deportation or denial of reentry into the United States (for non-US citizens), and character impeachment in subsequent civil or criminal proceedings. For more information, see CIMT, Professionals and Criminal Convictions, & Immigration Consequences for Criminal Convictions.
Three Strikes Law: The crime of vehicle registration fraud is not a strike offense under California’s Three Strikes Law. As such, felony VC 4463 is neither a serious offense, nor a violent offense, as those terms are defined under PC 1192.7 and 667.5, respectively. In addition, VC 4463 is not a violent crime for purposes of early release from jail pursuant to Prop 57. For more information, see California’s Three Strikes Law, PC 1192.7, PC 667.5, & Prop 57.
Bail: Bail is an amount of money or property staked with the court that is intended to assure the court that the defendant will appear as ordered if she is released from custody during the pendency of the criminal process. The idea is that if the defendant does not appear in court as ordered then the amount of money or property staked with the court will be forfeited by the defendant and those proceeds may be used to locate the defendant and bring her to court (bounty hunters’ payment).
Note: Most defendant’s use the services of a bail agent to process the staking of the money or property with the court. Bail agents take an upfront percentage of the bail as a service fee. The good news is that bail agents will stake the entire amount of the bail as part of the upfront service fee. This makes it possible for many defendant’s to remain out of custody for payment of only a small part of the bail ordered by the court. The bail amount regularly ordered in vehicle registration fraud cases is $25,000 (felony VC 4463) or $5,000 (misdemeanor VC 4463). In some VC 4463 cases, the defendant may be released from custody without the need to post bail (Own Recognizance Release or PC 825 Petition). For more information, see Bailing out of Jail.
Additional VC 4463 Punishments: In addition to any possible jail or probation sentence, if the defendant is convicted of vehicle registration fraud, she could face any of the following additional penalties: fines and court fees, book and release orders (if the defendant was never arrested), restitution to victims, criminal protective orders (restraining orders), denial of entry into the armed services (Space Force, Army, Navy, Marines, Air Force, Merchant Marines, Coast Guard), civil lawsuits, loss of the right to own or possess firearms or firearm ammunition, and more. For more information, see Criminal Convictions and Military Service.
VC 4463 Defenses: The facts of every vehicle registration fraud case are different; therefore, the defense that best applies to a VC 4463 case is particular to the set of facts related to that case. With that said, the most common defenses used in vehicle registration fraud cases include: mistake of fact, coerced confessions, insufficient evidence (not enough proof to show beyond a reasonable doubt that defendant knew the registration was false), and entrapment.
Post-Conviction Relief for VC 4463: After conviction for VC 4463, the defendant might take advantage of several post-conviction relief options. These post-conviction relief options include: Expungement of the criminal conviction (PC 1203.4), petition for early termination of probation (PC 1203.3), petition for certificate of rehabilitation or pardon (PC 4852), and more.
Note: A defendant who was cited or arrested for a violation of vehicle registration fraud, but the citation or arrest never lead to criminal prosecution, or the defendant was acquitted of the criminal charges after a jury trial, a may petition to have the criminal arrest sealed and destroyed may be sought. For more information, see Sealing and Destroying a Criminal Arrest Record.
To learn more about the crime of vehicle registration fraud (VC 4463), also called false evidence of registration, contact our criminal defense lawyers today. Our team of dedicated and successful lawyers have defended against thousands of misdemeanor and felony charges. Our attorneys are available every day of the week to assist you and to explain your rights and defense options. We are conveniently located in Redlands, CA, near the cities of Fontana, Rialto, Yucaipa, and San Bernardino. Call today!
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