Vehicle Code 20 VC is the California statute that makes it a crime to provide a false name or make a knowingly false statement to the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) or the California Highway Patrol (CHP). This is a misdemeanor that carries a penalty of up to 6 months in county jail and a fine of up to $1000.00.
Below, our California criminal defense attorneys1 will explain the law in more depth.
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
- used a false or fictitious name, and
- 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 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
- the facts of the case, and
- your criminal history.
If convicted of falsifying / forging / altering vehicle registration as a misdemeanor, you face up to one year in 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 custody 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 a 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.
For further help…
If you or a 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.
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.
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 — 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 3 at 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 — Punishment. (“Perjury is punishable by imprisonment in the state prison for two, three or four years.”)
See also California Penal Code 672 — 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 — 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.
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.”)
12California Penal Code 472
13California Penal Code 473 — Forgery; punishment.
See also California Penal Code 18
See also California Penal Code 672, endnote 10, above.