If you have two brand new 2010 Chevrolet Corvettes, both red in color, sitting side by side, how do you tell which one is which? Many folks would say, ‘by their license plates’. What if you switched the license plates or for that matter even removed them? A Vehicle Identification Number or VIN is assigned to every vehicle manufactured in the United States or imported into the U.S. That number is specifically configured to identify the vehicle that they are affixed to. The vehicle code states; No person shall knowingly buy, sell, offer for sale, receive, or have in his or her possession, any vehicle, or component part thereof, from which any serial or identification number, including, but not limited to, any number used for registration purposes, that is affixed by the manufacturer to the vehicle or component part, in whatever manner deemed proper by the manufacturer, has been removed, defaced, altered, or destroyed, unless the vehicle or component part has attached thereto an identification number assigned or approved by the department in lieu of the manufacturer's number.
Between 1989 and 1998 I was assigned to the Northern Division Investigative Services Unit in which my primary assignment was as a vehicle theft investigator. One of the most common violations I ran across was the removal, defacing, altering or destroying of these VIN’s. Pretty much there was only one reason for someone to do this and that was because they did not want you to know the vehicle’s true identity. Probably because it was stolen.
There are times when innocent persons come into possession of a vehicle where the public VIN has been altered unintentionally. Someone tried to spruce up their vehicle and decided to remove the VIN, clean it all up nice and shiny and stick it back on. Bad idea.
Should you become aware of a problem with your vehicle’s VIN for whatever reason, you can contact you local CHP office and they will assist you with correcting the problem. If you wait until you are stopped for some reason and there is a problem with your vehicle’s VIN plate, there is a good chance your vehicle will be impounded until everything can be straightened out. I’d go with the first option.
Not only do all vehicles have identification numbers, but so do all firearms, stereo equipment, computers, TV’s, electronic equipment, bicycles, the list goes on and on. It is unlawful to remove, deface, alter or destroy any of these numbers also.
The next time you find this really good deal on a lawn mower, you might check to see if the identification numbers have been removed. This is what is known as a ‘clue’ as to why it is such a good deal.
As most of us are aware, driving a motor vehicle is not a right, it is a privilege. Since it is a privilege the State of California requires that before you can get behind the wheel of a motor vehicle and but not only yourself in jeopardy but everyone else on the road, you should be licensed to drive a motor vehicle. The vehicle code states; A person may not drive a motor vehicle upon a highway, unless the person then holds a valid driver's license issued under this code, except those persons who are expressly exempted under this code.
The vehicle code further goes on to state that; A person may not drive a motorcycle, motor-driven cycle, or motorized bicycle upon a highway, unless the person then holds a valid driver's license or endorsement issued under this code for that class, except those persons who are expressly exempted under this code, or those persons specifically authorized to operate motorized bicycles or motorized scooters with a valid driver's license of any class.
Driving while being an unlicensed driver is a misdemeanor, which carries a big fine and is an arrest able offense. There is a very big difference between this and being a licensed driver and not having your license in your possession. The vehicle code states; The licensee shall have the valid driver's license issued to him or her in his or her immediate possession at all times when driving a motor vehicle upon a highway.
It is conceivable and even understandable should you jump in your car to go pickup a friend who called and needs a ride home, leaving your wallet or purse on the counter. It’s a totally different situation when you jump in the car to go pick someone up and it slipped your mind that you don’t have a driver’s license. Once the officer is aware that you are unlicensed, don’t expect him to allow you to continue on your journey. In addition to the citation, if a license driver is not available your vehicle may be parked or going to car jail.
Decisions, decisions, what is a person to do. My best suggestion when it comes to operating a motor vehicle is to insure that you are properly licensed to operate the vehicle you have chosen and then go out and enjoy the ride.
Monty Hight is a retired California Highway Patrol officer and Public Information Officer. He is the North State AVOID Campaign's Public Information Officer. He lives in Redding. More information on AVOID can be found here.