False Statements to the DMV or CHP
California Vehicle Code 20 VC

Charged with making false statements to, or using a fictitious name with, the DMV?

We can help.  As former cops and prosecutors, we have the inside knowledge that allows us to provide you with the most comprehensive defenses available.  We'll do our best to get your charges dismissed.

Below, our California criminal defense attorneys1 explain Vehicle Code 20 VC California's law against giving false information or a false name to the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) or California Highway Patrol (CHP).

1. The Legal Definition of Vehicle Code 20 VC -- False statements

Vehicle Code 20 VC specifically states "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."2

Example: Defendant held a legitimate California DMV issued driver's license. About eight years later, he applied for a second driver's license in a different name with a different date of birth.  In his second application, the defendant stated that he had never held a California driver's license.a statement that he signed under penalty of perjury. Because the person
  1. used a false or fictitious name, and
  2. knowingly made a false statement in his DMV license application,
he violated Vehicle Code 20 VC.3

Vehicle Code 20 VC is a misdemeanor, punishable by up to six months in jail and a maximum $1,000 fine.4

Vehicle Code 20's connection to Penal Code 118 PC perjury

But as Riverside criminal defense attorney Michael Scafiddi5 explains, "Because defendant submitted his form under penalty of perjury -- and didn't merely provide false information to the DMV -- he could be alternatively convicted of the greater offense of Penal Code 118 PC California's perjury law."6

Penal Code 118 PC prohibits deliberately giving false information under oath.  If convicted of this offense, you face a felony, punishable by two, there, or four years in the California state prison and a maximum $10,000 fine.7

2. Other Related Offenses

In addition to Penal Code 118 PC, there are some other California laws that may be charged in connection with (or in lieu of) Vehicle Code 20 VC.  These include (but are not limited to):

Vehicle Code 31 VC -- False information

Vehicle Code 31 VC California's law against providing false information to a peace officer prohibits knowingly providing false information to a peace officer.  This would include providing the officer with a fake or fraudulently obtained driver's license.8

This offense is also a misdemeanor, punishable by up to six months in a county jail and a maximum $1,000 fine.9

Vehicle Code 4463 VC -- Fraudulent vehicle registration

Vehicle Code 4463 VC California's law against forging, altering, or falsifying vehicle registration, a license, license plate, etc. may be charged anytime you forge, alter, or possess such an item.

This means that if, for example, you possess an altered or counterfeit document or license that you pass off as authentic, you violate this law.  Vehicle Code 4463 VC is a "wobbler" which means that the prosecutor could charge it as either a misdemeanor or a felony, depending on

  1. the facts of the case, and
  2. your criminal history.

If convicted of falsifying / forging / altering vehicle registration as a misdemeanor, you face up to one year in a county jail and a maximum $1,000 fine.10

If convicted of this offense as a felony, you face 16 months, or two or three years in the California state prison and a maximum fine of $10,000.11

Penal Code 472 VC -- Forging or counterfeiting of seals; possession and concealment of same

If you forge or possess a forged "seal" -- such as the DMV seal that appears on a fraudulently obtained driver's license -- you are guilty of Penal Code 472 VC California's "forging or counterfeiting seals" law.  A violation of this offense is also a violation of California's forgery laws.12

If convicted of this "wobbler", you face the same penalties as you face for violating Vehicle Code 4463 VC above.13

3. Defenses to Vehicle Code 20 VC

As is the case with almost any charge involving fraud, perjury, or forgery, the best legal defense is that you didn't have the intent to defraud.

If you didn't intend to defraud.and can demonstrate that your unlawful act was the result of simple mistake or accident.you aren't guilty of this offense.

Examples:  While filling out your driver's license application, you mistakenly put the wrong year for your birthday. Or,

Perhaps due to a language or cultural barrier, you accidentally write your name differently when you apply for your license renewal from when you first applied for your license (mixing up the order of your middle name and last name).

Similarly, if there is insufficient evidence to prove your case -- and the prosecution can't meet its burden of proving your guilt beyond a "reasonable doubt" (which means to a moral certainty) -- the judge will instruct the jury to acquit you of the charge.

Call us for help.
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If you or loved one is charged with Vehicle Code 20 VC false statements to the DMV and you are looking to hire an attorney for representation, we invite you to contact us at Shouse Law Group. We can provide a free consultation in office or by phone. We have local offices in Los Angeles, the San Fernando Valley, Pasadena, Long Beach, Orange County, Ventura, San Bernardino, Rancho Cucamonga, Riverside, San Diego, Sacramento, Oakland, San Francisco, San Jose and throughout California.

¿Habla español? Visite nuestro sitio Web en español sobre entregar declaraciones falsas al DMV en California.

Legal References:

1Our California criminal defense attorneys have local Los Angeles law offices in Beverly Hills, Burbank, Glendale, Lancaster, Long Beach, Los Angeles, Pasadena, Pomona, Torrance, Van Nuys, West Covina, and Whittier.  We have additional law offices conveniently located throughout the state in Orange County, San Diego, Riverside, San Bernardino, Ventura, San Jose, Oakland, the San Francisco Bay area, and several nearby cities.

2California Vehicle Code 20 VC -- False statements.

3People v. Molina (1992) 5 Cal.App.4th 221.

4California Vehicle Code 40000.5 VC -- Misdemeanors.  ("A violation of any of the following provisions shall constitute a misdemeanor, and not an infraction: Section 20, relating to false statements. Section 27, relating to impersonating a member of the California Highway Patrol. Section 31, relating to giving false information.")

See also California Penal Code 19 PC -- Punishment for misdemeanor; punishment not otherwise prescribed.  ("Except in cases where a different punishment is prescribed by any law of this state, every offense declared to be a misdemeanor is punishable by imprisonment in the county jail not exceeding six months, or by fine not exceeding one thousand dollars ($1,000), or by both.")

5Riverside criminal defense attorney Michael Scafiddi uses his former experience as an Ontario Police Officer to represent clients in San Bernardino, Riverside, Banning, Fontana, Joshua Tree, Barstow and Victorville.

6See People v. Molina, endnote 3at 231.  ("This lengthy analysis of Jenkins and its progeny discloses that Barrowclough's and Jensen's conclusion that Vehicle Code section 20 does not preclude perjury prosecutions for those filing false license applications under oath with DMV remains valid.")

7California Penal Code 126 PC -- Punishment.  ("Perjury is punishable by imprisonment in the state prison for two, three or four years.")

See also California Penal Code 672 PC -- Offenses for which no fine prescribed; fine authorized in addition to imprisonment.  ("Upon a conviction for any crime punishable by imprisonment in any jail or prison, in relation to which no fine is herein prescribed, the court may impose a fine on the offender not exceeding one thousand dollars ($1,000) in cases of misdemeanors or ten thousand dollars ($10,000) in cases of felonies, in addition to the imprisonment prescribed.")

8California Vehicle Code 31 VC -- False information to peace officer.  ("No person shall give, either orally or in writing, information to a peace officer while in the performance of his duties under the provisions of this code when such person knows that the information is false.")

9Endnote 4, above.

10Vehicle Code 4463 VC -- California's fraudulent vehicle registration law.  ("(a) A person who, with intent to prejudice, damage, or defraud, commits any of the following acts is guilty of a felony and upon conviction thereof shall be punished by imprisonment in the state prison for 16 months or two or three years, or by imprisonment in a county jail for not more than one year [which qualifies as a wobbler]: (1) Alters, forges, counterfeits, or falsifies a certificate of ownership, registration card, certificate, license, license plate, device issued pursuant to Section 4853, special plate, or permit provided for by this code or a comparable certificate of ownership, registration card, certificate, license, license plate, device comparable to that issued pursuant to Section 4853, special plate, or permit provided for by a foreign jurisdiction, or alters, forges, counterfeits, or falsifies the document, device, or plate with intent to represent it as issued by the department, or alters, forges, counterfeits, or falsifies with fraudulent intent an endorsement of transfer on a certificate of ownership or other document evidencing ownership, or with fraudulent intent displays or causes or permits to be displayed or have in his or her possession a blank, incomplete, canceled, suspended, revoked, altered, forged, counterfeit, or false certificate of ownership, registration card, certificate, license, license plate, device issued pursuant to Section 4853, special plate, or permit. (2) Utters, publishes, passes, or attempts to pass, as true and genuine, a false, altered, forged, or counterfeited matter listed in paragraph (1) knowing it to be false, altered, forged, or counterfeited.")

See also California Penal Code 672 PC -- Offenses for which no fine prescribed; fine authorized in addition to imprisonment.  ("Upon a conviction for any crime punishable by imprisonment in any jail or prison, in relation to which no fine is herein prescribed, the court may impose a fine on the offender not exceeding one thousand dollars ($1,000) in cases of misdemeanors or ten thousand dollars ($10,000) in cases of felonies, in addition to the imprisonment prescribed.")

11See same.

12California Penal Code 472 PC -- Forgery or counterfeiting of seals; possession and concealment of counterfeited seal.  ("Every person who, with intent to defraud another, forges, or counterfeits the seal of this State, the seal of any public officer authorized by law, the seal of any Court of record, or the seal of any corporation, or any other public seal authorized or recognized by the laws of this State, or of any other State, Government, or country, or who falsely makes, forges, or counterfeits any impression purporting to be an impression of any such seal, or who has in his possession any such counterfeited seal or impression thereof, knowing it to be counterfeited, and willfully conceals the same, is guilty of forgery [and, if the seal appears on a registration document, then of violating California's fraudulent vehicle registration laws].")

13California Penal Code 473 PC -- Forgery; punishment.  ("Forgery is punishable by imprisonment in the state prison, or by imprisonment in the county jail for not more than one year.")

See also California Penal Code 18 PC -- Punishment for felony not otherwise prescribed; alternate sentence to county jail.  ("Except in cases where a different punishment is prescribed by any law of this state, every offense declared to be a felony, or to be punishable by imprisonment in a state prison, is punishable by imprisonment in any of the state prisons for 16 months, or two or three years; provided, however, every offense which is prescribed by any law of the state to be a felony punishable by imprisonment in any of the state prisons or by a fine, but without an alternate sentence to the county jail, may be punishable by imprisonment in the county jail not exceeding one year or by a fine, or by both.")

See also California Penal Code 672 PC, endnote 10, above.

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