What Is the Penalty for Odometer Tampering in California?
In the state of California, odometer tampering is considered a serious offense. The act of tampering with an odometer is illegal under both federal and state laws, as it involves intentionally altering or resetting the mileage on a vehicle in order to deceive potential buyers. Odometer fraud is a form of automotive fraud that can result in severe penalties for those found guilty.
Under California Vehicle Code Section 10750, any person who knowingly sells, transfers, or offers for sale a motor vehicle with the intent to defraud by misrepresenting the vehicle’s mileage is guilty of a misdemeanor. The penalties associated with odometer tampering can include fines of up to $1,500 per violation, imprisonment for up to one year, or both.
Additionally, the offender may be liable for civil damages to the buyer of the vehicle, which can include the amount of the actual damages suffered, as well as reasonable attorney’s fees and costs. This means that not only can odometer tampering lead to criminal charges, but it can also result in costly lawsuits and damage to one’s reputation.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs):
Q: What constitutes odometer tampering?
A: Odometer tampering can take various forms, including manually rolling back the mileage, disconnecting or altering the odometer, or using devices to freeze or otherwise alter the mileage reading.
Q: Can individuals be charged with odometer tampering if they were not directly involved in the act?
A: Yes, under California law, anyone who knowingly sells or offers to sell a vehicle with an altered or tampered odometer can be held accountable, regardless of their direct involvement in the tampering.
Q: Are there any exceptions to the penalties for odometer tampering?
A: There are limited exceptions for vehicles that are over ten years old and have a gross vehicle weight rating (GVWR) of more than 16,000 pounds. However, even in these cases, sellers are required to disclose the vehicle’s true mileage to potential buyers.
Q: How can potential buyers protect themselves against odometer fraud?
A: It is crucial for buyers to exercise due diligence before purchasing a used vehicle. They should request to see the vehicle’s maintenance records, obtain a vehicle history report, inspect the car thoroughly, and have an independent mechanic inspect it as well. Additionally, buyers should be wary of deals that seem too good to be true and trust their instincts.
Q: How can odometer tampering be detected?
A: While some forms of tampering can be difficult to detect, there are certain red flags that buyers can watch out for. Inconsistent wear on the vehicle’s interior or exterior, mismatched mileage on service records, discrepancies between the mileage displayed on the odometer and the overall condition of the vehicle, and unexplainable gaps in the vehicle’s maintenance history can all be indications of potential odometer tampering.
Q: Are there any federal laws related to odometer tampering?
A: Yes, in addition to state laws, the federal government has enacted the Motor Vehicle Information and Cost Savings Act, commonly known as the Odometer Act. This act makes it a federal offense to alter or tamper with an odometer reading and imposes similar penalties to those found in California state law.
In conclusion, odometer tampering is a serious offense in California, with both criminal and civil penalties. It is essential for sellers to understand the legal consequences associated with this fraudulent act and for buyers to exercise caution when purchasing a used vehicle. By being aware of the laws and taking necessary precautions, individuals can help prevent odometer fraud and ensure a fair and transparent transaction.