Dealing with the California Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) can be frustrating but make sure you are accurate in the paperwork you fill out for a driver's license or vehicle registration. California Vehicle Code Section 20 VC makes it against the law to make any false statement in a document filed with the DMV or California Highway Patrol (CHP). A judge may assume the worst based on the charges even if you are innocent. Instead of facing a judge on your own, contact your local East Bay criminal defense lawyer.
Vehicle Code 20 VC Text
Under California Vehicle Code Section 20:
“It is unlawful to use a false or fictitious name, or to knowingly make any false statement or knowingly conceal any material fact in any document filed with the Department of Motor Vehicles or the Department of the California Highway Patrol.
Penalties for Vehicle Code 20 VC
Using a false name or making false statements to the DMV is a misdemeanor offense in California. Penalties for a conviction can include up to 6 months in jail and a fine of up to $1,000. Charges for CVC 20 may accompany other charges, including:
- Vehicle Code 12500 VC - Driving Without a License
- Vehicle Code 14601 VC - Driving on a Suspended License
- Vehicle Code 16028 VC - Driving Without Proof of Insurance
- Vehicle Code 4463 VC - Fraudulent Vehicle License or Registration
- Penal Code 118 - Perjury
- Penal Code 550 - Insurance Fraud
False Name on a DMV Document May Also Be Perjury
There may be a number of reasons why someone would attempt to use a false name on a DMV or CHP document. Making false statements may be intentional in order to get a license or vehicle registration. The individual may make false statements because the person:
- Does not have valid identification
- Has a warrant for their arrest
- Is trying to hide from an abusive partner
- Has judgments against property
- Wants ID that shows they are 21 or older
- Wants a different ID to commit credit card or check fraud
- Cannot get a license with their driving record
However, a driver could mistakenly make a false statement on a document. Sometimes it is confusing which information is to be entered in which box. Some questions are confusing if the individual is not familiar with the specific form, including title and licensing forms. A spelling error or difficult to read handwriting could end up with the wrong information on a license or registration.
False statements to the DMV is a misdemeanor. However, most DMV and CHP forms require a signature that says: “I certify (or declare) under penalty of perjury under the laws of the State of California that the foregoing is true and correct.”
A false statement on a DMV document could lead to more serious criminal charges of perjury. A false statement under declaration or certification that the person knows to be false is perjury. Under California Penal Code 118, perjury is a felony. A conviction for perjury could be punished by up to 4 years in prison and a fine of up to $10,000.
False Accident Report Filing
As part of an accident report or investigation, a driver may have to provide information about the accident to the police, CHP, or DMV. False statements after an accident that impacts the insurance claims could lead to auto insurance fraud charges. A person may be motivated to provide false accident information because they do not have insurance. False accident information may also be used intentionally to commit fraud, including:
- Intentionally damaging a vehicle
- Abandoning a vehicle
- Fraudulently filing multiple claims
- Causing an accident for the purpose of insurance fraud
Anyone who presents a false or fraudulent claim for payment of a loss or injury under an insurance contract could be charged with a felony under California PC 550. Penalties for insurance fraud can include up to 5 years in prison, and a fine of up to $50,000, or double the amount of the fraud, whichever is greater.
Lying to a CHP Officer
Lying to a CHP officer during a traffic stop or while investigating an accident is a separate charge. Under California Vehicle Code Section 31 no person shall give, either orally or in writing, false information to a peace officer. A “peace officer” includes CHP officers. Making false statements to a CHP is a misdemeanor and penalties for a conviction can include up to 6 months in jail and a fine of up to $1,000.
Defense Strategies for False Statements to the DMV
There are defense strategies to charges of using a false name or making false statements to the DMV. If you did not know or did not intend to make a false statement, you should not be convicted of making a false statement. For example, if you were recently married and put your maiden name instead of your new last name by accident, making a false statement was not intentional.
Defense Lawyer for 20 VC Charges in Alameda and Contra Costa Counties
East Bay attorney Lynn Gorelick has more than 35 years of criminal defense experience and understands the consequences of a criminal record for California drivers. Representing drivers in Alameda County and Contra Costa County, Lynn Gorelick is familiar with the local traffic and criminal laws, local officers, and the prosecutors involved. Contact East Bay defense lawyer Lynn Gorelick today.