Orange County Auto Registration Fraud Attorney
At Law Office of Michael L. Guisti, we know very well that California has some of the most expensive vehicle registration rates in the country. When it comes time to register or renew, not everybody can always afford it. Beyond that initial cost, some people may have vehicles that are unable to pass California's strict smog tests. Unable to pay, repair, or buy a new vehicle, some people just create or buy fake registration stickers or just find other ways altogether to avoid registering their car in California.
But Orange County courts do not often show mercy to defendants in vehicle registration fraud cases and can punish you with significant fines and jail time, even if you made a mistake or are wrongly convicted. That is why employing the aid of an experienced and skilled OC auto registration fraud attorney Law Office of Michael L. Guisti could be your best chance at fighting these charges and avoiding jail time. To learn how we can represent you in a criminal case, contact our office at (714) 530-9690 or toll-free at (888) 478-8999 and discuss your case in a free case evaluation!
Call us today to discuss your case in a free case evaluation!
Vehicle registration fraud may seem like having to deal with what amounts to a traffic ticket, but despite the seemingly simple nature of this offense, we need to stress that this is a serious crime that could be charged as a felony. Fraud charges are not taken lighting in California, much less Orange County, and can easily be paired with theft and forgery charges. If convicted, you could face time in prison and lose your driver's license. With over a decade of experience, our legal team has successfully kept our clients out of prison and allowed them to keep their much-needed driver's license.
Vehicle registration fraud is covered under California Vehicle Code 4463, which states that fraudulent or altered vehicle registration takes place when you intentionally interfere with the license plate, stickers, or registration card in an effort to secure a financial gain or to avoid paying DMV taxes and fees.
In order to secure a conviction of vehicle registration fraud, the prosecution must demonstrate that you:
- Falsified your vehicle registration through forging, altering, or counterfeiting your vehicle’s information;
- Displayed fraudulent vehicle information on your vehicle through fake, altered or counterfeited registration stickers, license plates, or smog certification information; or
- Created, published, or printed false vehicle information with the intent to defraud.
Because this is an intent crime, the prosecution does not need to prove that you actually put fake vehicle registration stickers on your vehicle or used a fake or stolen license place, only that you intended to. That means forging a smog certificate, using another person’s license plate, or altering your vehicle registration stickers are enough to secure a conviction.
In addition, these charges can also involve other crimes, such as:
- Forgery: Falsifying your vehicle’s information by counterfeiting license plates, smog certificates, or vehicle registration cards can all lead to a forgery charge in addition to vehicle registration fraud charges.
- Theft: If, in the effort to falsify your vehicle’s registration, you stole another person’s license plate, registration sticker, or smog certification, then the OC courts may also charge you with a theft crime. Which theft crime you are charged with may vary depending on the value of the property you stole, where you stole it front, whether or not force or violence was used, and if you accessed another person’s personal information.
- Identity Theft: Along those same lines, utilizing another person’s license plate or vehicle registration number can amount to identity theft.
Some other common forms of auto registration fraud that can lead to fraud charges include:
Using fake registration tabs on your license plate is not as easy as it used to be as new technology in police cars scans license plates on the street and freeway. Understand that if you are caught using fake registration stickers on the road, you will likely be arrested and taken into custody. If it turns out that you created the fake registration tabs, you could also face forgery charges. Furthermore, depending on the situation, you could face petty theft charges since you deprived the DMV money due to them.
The law also covers those accused of understating the value of your car to avoid paying higher taxes and higher registration fees. Generally, what raises red flags with the DMV is if you report the car's value well below what it should reasonably be worth. For example, it is going to catch the DMV's attention if you report that you bought a 2012 BMW 7-Series for $1,000. Of course, through various deals, it is possible you were able to buy a car for that amount, which is why you need to retain a professional fraud attorney.
If you keep your car registered in another state, but live and work in California, you could be criminally charged. California needs money and one of the ways in recent years they've been attempting to collect revenue is to go after those who live and in work in California, but keep their vehicle registered in another state. In fact, the DMV is even encouraging people to "snitch" on those suspected of violating this law.
Now, for the courts and DMV, this could be tough to prove, because even though you may live and work in Southern California, perhaps you spend your weekends in Arizona or frequently make work trips to Nevada. There could be several reasons why you may not need to register your car in California, but the cold truth is that as far as the DMV goes, you not registering your vehicle in California is money not going to the state. The Arizona and Nevada DMV are well aware of California's complex laws; they have their own safeguards in place to avoid people from California simply registering their vehicles in their states.
Auto registration fraud is a "wobbler," which means it can be charged as a felony or misdemeanor.
- Misdemeanor Auto Registration Fraud: If convicted of auto registration fraud as a misdemeanor, you face up to 1 year in a county jail and up to $1,000 fine.
- Felony Auto Registration Fraud: If convicted of felony auto registration fraud, you face between 16 months and 3 years in a state prison and a fine up to $10,000.
In addition to suspending your driver's license, the DMV may also refuse to issue new registration to you.
A charge of fraud can seem extremely scary, as these cases often involve directly confronting a government agency. You may have only heard of fraud in relation to big businesses, but these charges can just as easily be leveled against an everyday citizen. However, you do have a right to a defense, and with a skilled attorney from Law Office of Michael L. Guisti at your side, you may be able to beat these charges.
While vehicle registration fraud charges only need intent to secure a conviction, that fact also allows your attorney to build a strong defense on your behalf. If the prosecution cannot prove that you intended to commit fraud and that you only made a mistake, then they will not have a case against you.
- There was no intent to commit fraud
- You were not aware that the tags or license plates you had were fake
- There was an error with the DMV, and you were issued the wrong information
- There is insufficient evidence to convict
Common defense strategies used to protect our clients from a vehicle registration fraud conviction include:
What strategy we utilize will depend on the circumstances of your case, and the best to start preparing that defense is to contact us immediately. You have a right to an attorney and the Law Office of Michael L. Guisti can provide thorough legal guidance during this difficult time in your life.
This is a crime that could send you to prison, cost you a lot of money, and making obtaining a driver's license and registering your vehicle near impossible. When you call the Orange County fraud attorneys at Law Office of Michael L. Guisti, we will work to reduce or dismiss your charges and get your driver's license back. Our experienced defense attorneys have successfully defended our clients against auto fraud charges in the courts of Orange County and throughout Southern California.
Our goal is to win your case, get your license back, and get your car legally registered. To begin a free case evaluation, contact our office at (714) 530-9690 or toll-free at (888) 478-8999.
Whether you're facing a felony or a misdemeanor, don't risk a conviction. Act quickly to redeem your reputation and protect your record by consulting with our Orange County criminal defense lawyer. Call today to schedule your free consultation.