Is Vehicle Tampering a Crime?

Even if you didn’t steal any property or cause any damage, tampering with a vehicle is a crime in California.

You may think that vehicle tampering is a minor infraction that won’t have any serious consequences. In the state of California, this is not the case. You can incur a fine and even face jail time depending on the circumstances of the crime. If you’ve been charged with vehicle tampering or another vehicle-related offense in San Diego, contact an experienced criminal theft attorney right away. A good defense attorney can educate you on the best possible defenses to get you the results you want in your case. 

Schedule your free consultation today. Contact Criminal Defense Lawyer Joni Eisenstein.

What is Vehicle Tampering in California? 

Under California Vehicle Code 10852, “no person shall either individually or in association with one or more other persons, willfully injure or tamper with any vehicle or the contents thereof or break or remove any part of a vehicle without the consent of the owner.” 

A vehicle tampering charge usually comes about when a person steals small items from an unlocked vehicle. Defendants can be charged with vehicle tampering without stealing the vehicle or even having the intent to steal a vehicle. Vehicle tampering can also be charged when  an individual damages a car without the need for a theft to occur. 

Some common scenarios in which a charge of Vehicle Tampering can be brought against a defendant can include: 

  1. An individual notices that a car is unlocked on his way home from the bar. He opens the door and rummages around in search of something of value. He locates a pair of earphones and decides to keep them, before closing the vehicle door and continuing on his way home. This person could be charged under VC 10852. 
  2. An individual gets into an argument with a coworker. He storms out of the office and into the parking lot with the intention of going home. However, he spots the vehicle of his coworker and he decides to get revenge by keying his car. He could be charged under VC 10852. 

The state of California considers vehicle tampering a misdemeanor charge. It can come with jail time of up to one year and $1000 in fines.  

Is Vehicle Tampering the Same as Auto Burglary? 

Vehicle tampering is typically charged when an unlocked or open vehicle is damaged or tampered with. Under California Penal Code 459, auto burglary is charged when a person intentionally enters a locked vehicle to steal property, to steal the vehicle or commit another felony. The decision to charge a defendant with vehicle tampering or auto burglary will usually depend on whether or not the vehicle was locked. 

Possible Defenses for Vehicle Tampering 

If you have been accused of vehicle tampering in San Diego, you need to secure a reputable, experienced criminal defense attorney to prepare your defense. Your attorney will take the time to hear your side of the case, understand the facts of your case and suggest the best defense for your situation. 

There are a number of defenses that are available to those charged with vehicle tampering. Some of the most common defenses that your attorney may use can include: 

The tampering was not intentional. Under the law, vehicle tampering occurs when an individual “willfully injures or tampers” with a vehicle. Your attorney may state that there was no intention to commit a crime or that it was accidental. For example, a person entered an unlocked vehicle to recover their personal property. 

You had the consent of the owner. Your attorney may offer that you had the permission of the owner to enter the vehicle or remove property from inside the vehicle. Because you had express permission, no crime was committed. 

You were wrongfully accused. Very often, vehicle tampering crimes occur at night when it can be hard to identify the perpetrator. Or, if there were no video cameras in the area, your attorney may argue that there is no proof that their client was the one to tamper with the vehicle. 

San Diego Vehicle Tampering Defense Attorney

If you have been accused of tampering with a vehicle in San Diego County, call the Law Office of Joni Eisenstein today for your free consultation. She has over 25 years of experience fighting vehicle tampering and auto burglary cases in the San Diego courts, so you can feel confident that she can get you the outcome that you desire. 

Call 760-721-3161 for your free consultation with San Diego criminal defense attorney Joni Eisenstein today.  

If you are on the fence about hiring a defense attorney, stop thinking about it, and do it now

Hiring a criminal defense attorney like Joni Eisenstein can help you go from a place of uncertainty to freedom.

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