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California Chop Shop Laws & Defense

Vehicle Code 10801

California law on owning or operating a chop shop is found at vehicle code section 10801 through 10853. 

The law of chop shop crimes (VC 10801)

A chop shop is defined as:

  • A building where a person alters, destroys, or reassembles a motor vehicle.

To be found guilty of owing or operating a chop shop in California, the district attorney must prove that:

  • The defendant knows that vehicles, or parts of vehicles, have been obtained by theft or fraud, and
  • The defendant knows that the vehicles were obtained for the purpose of altering, reselling or disposing the vehicle of its parts.

A chop shop does not have to be a large commercial auto shop. In fact, most chop shop crimes are alleged to be committed in the defendant's home garage.

Penalty & Sentence for VC 10801

Vehicle code section 10801 may be charged as a felony or as a misdemeanor. Whether or not the district attorney charges misdemeanor or felony chop shop charges depends largely on the defendant's criminal history and the facts of the case.

If found guilty of owning or operating a chop shop in pursuan to VC 10801, as a felony, the defendant may face up to 4 years in prison, or county prison.

If found guilty of owning or operating a chop shop as a misdemeanor the defendant could face up to 1 years in county jail.

VC 10801 is not considered a violent or serious crime as those terms are defined in California's Three Strike's Sentencing Law. Probation sentences, split sentences, and suspended sentences may available to some defendants depending on the facts of the case and the defendant's criminal history.

In some VC 10801 cases, it may be possible to have the criminal charges dismissed, or the charge altered to a less severe crime through plea bargaining. Whether or not these options are available will largely depend on the facts of the case. 

In addition to the possible jail sentence, if found guildty of VC 10801, the defendant may face long probation sentences, loss of a professional license, immigration problems (for non-U.S. citizens), large monetary fines, restitution, and more.

Defense to VC 10801 (Owing a Chop Shop)

There are dozens of different defenses that might apply to a typical criminal case. There is no particular defense that applies specifically to chop shop crimes; however, from practice, most defenses tend to be one of the following: insufficient evidence to prove that the defendant knew the vehicles were stolen, statute of limitations, coerced confessions, mistake of fact, entrapment defense, and more

If you have been charged with violating California's laws against owning or operating a chop shop under VC 10801, contact our criminal defense attorneys without delay.

Our Defense attorneys are experienced in chop shop crimes and we will aggressiviely explore your options, explain your legal rights, and discuss possible defenses to a charge of VC 10801.

Call today!


Closely associated crimes to VC 10801, include:

  • VC 10802 Tamper with vehicle identification number
  • VC 10803(a) Buy vehicle w/altered ID number
  • VC 10851(a) Unauthorized vehicle use
  • PC 496(a) Receipt of stolen property
  • VC 10801 Owning or operating a chop shop

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VC 10801: Chop Shop Defense

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VC 10801 Chop Shop Defense

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  • Shoplifting
  • Stalking
  • Vandalism
  • Vehicle Theft
  • Welfare Fraud

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California Law & Defense / Own or Operate a Chop Shop VC 10801 & 10802


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