Vehicle Code 4000a1 VC – California Vehicle Registration

Vehicle Code 4000a1 VC is the California statute that makes it illegal for a person to drive a vehicle without proof of valid registration. A violation of this code section is an infraction that can lead to a fine. Officers will sometimes write this section as CVC 4000a.

4000a1 VC states that  “a person shall not drive, move, or leave standing upon a highway, or in an off-street public parking facility, any motor vehicle, trailer, semitrailer…unless it is registered and the appropriate fees have been paid…”.

A violation of this statute is charged as an infraction. This is opposed to a California misdemeanor or a felony. An offender is punished with a ticket and must pay a fine in the amount of $280 plus court costs.

Note, however, that these tickets are usually correctable “fix-it tickets.” This means that an offender will be excused of an offense if he/she properly registers his/her car after a ticket is issued.

The police can charge a person with this offense even if he or she was not driving the car. Even parked cars in an “off-street public parking facility” are subject to these laws.

Our California criminal defense attorneys will explain the following in this article:

California license plate with no vehicle registration stickers - a violation of 4000a1 VC
A California License Plate missing registration tags

1. When are registration tags required?

Vehicle Code 4000a1 VC says that a person must register his/her vehicle with the DMV if he or she:

  • drives it,
  • moves it, or
  • parks it in an off-street public parking facility.1

An “off-street public parking facility” means either of the following:

  1. any publicly owned parking facility, or
  2. any privately owned parking facility that charges no fee for cars to park.2

Registration” means that a person provides evidence that he/she has paid the registration tax and fees on a motor vehicle. This evidence consists of:

  • a metal license plate,
  • a validation decal, and
  • a registration certificate.

Note that in the case of a parked vehicle that does not show proper registration:

  • the authorities cannot tow and impound it,
  • unless they try to contact the owner and inform that it is not registered.3

2. What are the consequences of a VC 4000a1 ticket?

A violation of this statute is charged as an infraction. The offender receives a ticket and must pay a fine in the amount of $280. But courts can add penalty assessments that make the net cost of the fine several times greater.

Note, however, that police usually do not charge a person of this offense on its own. This means that authorities will charge a driver with a VC 4000a1 violation typically only after a traffic stop for some other violation.

Example: Jose drives a Hyundai Elantra. The registration tags on the vehicle are outdated. A police officer, parked and monitoring motorists for speeding, sees the tags as Jose drives by but does not stop him for it. Jose was driving under the speed limit.

But the same officer observes Kelly driving 50-mph in a 30-mph speeding zone. He stops her, and upon walking to the driver's door, notices that her registration tags have expired. He charges Kelly with both:

  • a speeding violation, and
  • a violation of VC 4000a1.
officer issuing fix it ticket for expired registration tags
A violation of Vehicle Code 4000a1 is most often a “fix-it ticket.”

3. Is it just a fix-it ticket?

A violation of Vehicle Code 4000a1 is most often a correctable  “fix-it ticket.”

This means that if the police ticket a person for driving an unregistered vehicle, then:

  • the court will likely dismiss the charge, provided that,
  • the driver fixes the issue and shows proof that he/she registered the car after the ticket.

Note, though, that the court will likely still charge the driver a $25 dismissal fee.

4. What if a person wasn't driving or using the vehicle?

The police can charge a person with a VC 4000a1 offense even if he/she was not driving the car.

Parked cars in an off-street public parking facility are still subject to these laws.

Note further that a person can receive a ticket under this statute if:

  1. he/she drives a car with outdated registration tags, and
  2. is not the true owner of the vehicle.

5. Are there related offenses?

There are three offenses related to driving an unregistered vehicle. These are:

  1. vehicle registration fraud – VC 4463,
  2. failure to appear for a traffic ticket – VC 40508, and
  3. proof of financial responsibility – VC 16028.

5.1. Vehicle registration fraud – VC 4463

Vehicle Code 4463 VC imposes criminal penalties for fraud or forgery involving:

  • vehicle registration certificates,
  • vehicle registration stickers,
  • vehicle license plates, and
  • vehicle smog test certificates.

Specifically, 4462 VC prohibits all of the following:

  1. altering, forging, counterfeiting or falsifying vehicle registration materials,
  2. displaying or possessing canceled or forged vehicle registration materials, and
  3. passing any false, altered or counterfeit vehicle registration materials.

5.2. Failure to appear for a traffic ticket – VC 40508

Vehicle Code 40508 VC is the California statute on the failure to appear for a traffic ticket.

After receiving a traffic ticket in California, a driver is obligated to sign a written promise to appear in court. The driver promises to appear in court at a certain time and place.

If the driver willfully fails to appear as promised, he violates VC 40508.

The driver willfully fails to appear when he is willingly a no-show. It is not a defense if the driver did not intend to break the law.

It also does not matter whether the offending driver is guilty or innocent of the underlying traffic citation. He violates the law just by breaking a promise to:

  • appear in court,
  • appear to pay bail,
  • pay bail in installments,
  • pay a fine within the time authorized, or
  • comply with any condition of the court.

5.3. Proof of financial responsibility – VC 16028a

Vehicle Code 16028a VC is the California statute that says a driver must:

  1. have evidence of financial responsibility of his/her vehicle, and
  2. have this evidence when requested to provide it to a police officer.

Proof of “financial responsibility” simply means proof of automobile insurance.

For additional help...

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Legal References:

  1. California Vehicle Code 4000a1 VC.

  2. California Vehicle Code 4000a2 VC.

  3. Clement v. City of Glendale (2008), 518 F.3d 1090.

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