The legal definition of disabled placard forgery
You can violate California's law against disabled parking placard fraud—which closely parallels California's law against vehicle registration fraud—by doing any of the following with intent to prejudice, damage or defraud:
- Forging, counterfeiting or falsifying a disabled person placard issued by the California Department of Motor Vehicles or a comparable placard issued by another state or country;
- Passing or attempting to pass as true and genuine a false, forged or counterfeit disabled person placard, knowing that it is false, forged or counterfeit; or
- Acquiring, possessing, selling or offering for sale a genuine or counterfeit disabled person placard.2
You also commit the crime of disabled parking placard fraud under VC 4463 when you display, or cause or permit to be displayed, a forged, counterfeit or false disabled person placard, with fraudulent intent.3
(This is similar to, but distinct from, the crime of illegal use or misuse of disability placards under Vehicle Code 4461, which consists of fraudulently using genuine—rather than counterfeit—disabled person placards.4)
Examples of disabled person placard forgery or fraud
Here are some examples of defendants who could be charged with forged or counterfeit disabled placards in California:
- A woman who is an expert at designing documents on her computer creates a realistic-looking counterfeit disability placard. Her plan is to place it on her car to make parking near her job easier.
- A man has a black-market business selling both forged disabled person placards and genuine ones that he has purchased for large sums from their owners.
- A woman buys one of the forged placards from that man and displays it on her car. When she is stopped by a police officer, she insists that it is actually real even though she knows it is not. (This woman might be charged with both VC 4463 and VC 31 giving false information to a peace officer.5)
It is important to note that you can only be convicted of disabled parking placard forgery if you had “fraudulent intent.” “Fraudulent intent” means that you intended to deceive someone else in order to secure an unfair or unlawful gain.6
Example: Debbie is the set designer for a local theater company. For one play, she designs and prints a fake disabled parking placard as a prop.
Debbie's counterfeit disabled parking placard is very realistic-looking. The director of the play, Scott, decides to put it on his car and use it to park in disabled spots.
Scott is guilty of counterfeit disabled placards because he put the fake placard on his car with fraudulent intent. But Debbie did not intend to defraud when she created the placard—and so she is not guilty of disabled placard forgery.
Penalties for Vehicle Code 4463(b) and (c)
Disabled placard fraud in most cases is a misdemeanor in California law.7
In most cases, the potential penalties are:
- Six (6) months in county jail; and/or
- A fine of at least five hundred dollars ($500) and up to one thousand dollars ($1,000).8
The exception is if you are convicted of forged or counterfeit disabled parking placards for only displaying or causing to be displayed a forged, counterfeit or false placard.
In that case, you may either:
- Be charged with a misdemeanor carrying a county jail sentence of six (6) months and/or a fine of between two hundred fifty dollars ($250) and one thousand dollars ($1,000); OR
- Receive only a civil fine (similar to a parking ticket) of no less than two hundred fifty dollars and no more than one thousand dollars ($1,000).9
Defendants convicted of disabled parking forgery as a misdemeanor are not eligible for misdemeanor probation.10
Legal defenses to Vehicle Code 4463(b) and (c) charges
Fortunately, there are a variety of common legal defenses that your California criminal defense attorney can present on your behalf.
One such defense is lack of fraudulent intent. As Ventura criminal defense lawyer John Murray11 explains:
“The very definition of fraud—including disabled person parking placard fraud—hinges on the intent of the defendant. Without intent, there is no fraud crime.”
Police and prosecutors may take a “guilty until proven innocent” approach. But unless they can prove fraudulent intent beyond a reasonable doubt, you are not guilty of this offense.
Another common legal defense is insufficient evidence.
Many allegations of forged or fraudulent disabled parking placards revolve around circumstantial evidence. “Circumstantial evidence” is any evidence that doesn't directly point to guilt but that instead proves another fact that makes the defendant's guilt more likely.12
Circumstantial evidence is less powerful than so-called “direct evidence”—and it can be much more difficult for a prosecutor to convince a jury that it shows guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.
Finally, there is always plea bargaining. The fact is that most criminal cases in this state, particularly those involving Vehicle Code misdemeanors, resolve prior to a California criminal jury trial.
If the prosecutor isn't convinced that s/he will be able to secure a guilty verdict, s/he may be willing to accept a plea to a less serious charge, such as a Vehicle Code infraction.
Call us for help…
For questions about the crime of Vehicle Code 4463(b) and (c) VC disabled parking placard forgery or fraud, or to discuss your case confidentially with one of our California criminal defense attorneys, do not hesitate to contact us at Shouse Law Group.
We have local criminal law offices in and around Los Angeles, San Diego, Orange County, Riverside, San Bernardino, Ventura, San Jose, Oakland, the San Francisco Bay area, and several nearby cities.
1 Vehicle Code 4463 VC – Forgery, alteration, counterfeit or falsification of registration, license plate, certificate, license, etc., or disabled person placard; penalties [forged or counterfeit disabled parking placards].(“(b) A person who, with intent to prejudice, damage, or defraud, commits any of the following acts is guilty of a misdemeanor, and upon conviction thereof shall be punished by imprisonment in a county jail for six months, a fine of not less than five hundred dollars ($500) and not more than one thousand dollars ($1,000), or both that fine and imprisonment, which penalty shall not be suspended: (1) Forges, counterfeits, or falsifies a disabled person placard or a comparable placard relating to parking privileges for disabled persons provided for by a foreign jurisdiction, or forges, counterfeits, or falsifies a disabled person placard with intent to represent it as issued by the department. (2) Passes, or attempts to pass, as true and genuine, a false, forged, or counterfeit disabled person placard knowing it to be false, forged, or counterfeited. (3) Acquires, possesses, sells, or offers for sale a genuine or counterfeit disabled person placard. (c) A person who, with fraudulent intent, displays or causes or permits to be displayed a forged, counterfeit, or false disabled person placard, is subject to the issuance of a notice of parking violation imposing a civil penalty of not less than two hundred fifty dollars ($250) and not more than one thousand dollars ($1,000), for which enforcement shall be governed by the procedures set forth in Article 3 (commencing with Section 40200) of Chapter 1 of Division 17 or is guilty of a misdemeanor punishable by imprisonment in a county jail for six months, a fine of not less than two hundred fifty dollars ($250) and not more than one thousand dollars ($1,000), or both that fine and imprisonment, which penalty shall not be suspended. (d) For purposes of subdivision (b) or (c), “disabled person placard” means a placard issued pursuant to Section 22511.55 or 22511.59.”)
4 Vehicle Code 4461 VC – Lending evidence of registration or placards; disabled persons [placards]; parking; offenses; exception [compare to Vehicle Code 4463(b) and (c)].
5 Vehicle Code 31 VC – False information to peace officer [may be charged along with disabled placard fraud or forgery]. (“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.”)
6 Black's Law Dictionary (10th ed. 2014), FRAUD. (“1. A knowing misrepresentation or knowing concealment of a material fact made to induce another to act to his or her detriment.”)
7 Vehicle Code 4463 VC – Forgery, alteration, counterfeit or falsification of registration, license plate, certificate, license, etc., or disabled person placard; penalties [forged or counterfeit disabled parking placards], endnote 1 above.
11 Ventura criminal defense attorney John Murray is an expert specialist in crimes involving the California Vehicle Code, including VC 4463. He works closely with his clients, and carefully chosen private investigators and experts, to build the strongest defense in cases ranging from DUI to driving on a suspended license to vehicle registration and disabled placard fraud. He has extensive experience both in the court systems of Los Angeles County and Ventura County and in California DMV hearings .
12 Judicial Council of California Criminal Jury Instructions ("CALCRIM") 223 – Direct and Circumstantial Evidence [relevant to proof in disabled placard forgery or fraud cases]. ("Facts may be proved by direct or circumstantial evidence or by a combination of both. Direct evidence can prove a fact by itself. For example, if a witness testifies he saw it raining outside before he came into the courthouse, that testimony is direct evidence that it was raining. Circumstantial evidence also may be called indirect evidence. Circumstantial evidence does not directly prove the fact to be decided, but is evidence of another fact or group of facts from which you may logically and reasonably conclude the truth of the fact in question. For example, if a witness testifies that he saw someone come inside wearing a raincoat covered with drops of water, that testimony is circumstantial evidence because it may support a conclusion that it was raining outside.")