Most chop shop charges are prosecuted under North Carolina laws, but if the operation crosses state lines, the case falls under federal law. If you are under investigation or charged with chop shop activity, get in touch with a lawyer from King Law to help you understand your rights and legal options.
North Carolina’s Definition of Chop Shop Activity
North Carolina General Statutes define chop shop activity as owning or operating a place where vehicle parts or vehicles are obtained through theft or fraud and are altered, destroyed, reassembled, or stored.
It also involves removing or counterfeiting the vehicle’s identification number to dispose of, sell, or distribute the vehicle or vehicle parts in the state, interstate, or foreign markets.
In other terms, a chop shop buys and sells stolen vehicles and vehicle parts in an operation usually involving the following:
- Keeping the stolen vehicles for potential sales.
- Removing the vehicle’s components.
- Altering the identifying features of the vehicle, like the VIN.
- Selling reassembled vehicles.
- Selling off components and parts.
In most cases, legitimate businesses like an auto body shop, auto parts shop, or mechanic are used as a front for operating a chop shop where the business deals in legitimate parts while also doubling in stolen parts. Sometimes, the business owner might need to learn that the employees are running chop shop activities in the facility. A chop shop activity charge does not require you to own a chop shop for a guilty conviction. It means you could still be convicted if you participated actively in chop shop operations, even if they were unplanned.
Prosecution of North Carolina Chop Shop Activity
For a prosecutor to succeed in getting you convicted for chop shop activity, they must prove without a doubt all elements of the charged crime, which include the following:
- The defendant knew that the motor vehicle or motor vehicle parts were obtained through fraud or theft
- The defendant possessed or purchased a vehicle or vehicle part on which the VIN or other identification had been altered or removed
- The defendant knew that the identification removal or alteration was done illegally
- The defendant intended to sell or dispose of the motor vehicle or parts
In most cases, it is challenging for a prosecutor to prove that you knew something, since the evidence is typically circumstantial. However, a jury can convict you if the evidence is strong enough to prove your guilt.
Penalties for North Carolina Chop Shop Activity
In North Carolina, the term ‘larceny’ describes theft in legal situations. Though it seems strange, the terms larceny and theft are used when referring to crimes of unlawful taking of someone’s property. Unless the law specifies that the particular larceny falls in a different category of felonies or misdemeanors, chop shop activity is considered a Class G felony in North Carolina.
If you are found guilty of a Class G felony, the penalties include a prison sentence of 10 to 41 months, regardless of your prior criminal history or dispositional range. The judge sentences the defendant to a minimum and maximum duration of the sentencing range so that the person is eligible for parole once the minimum sentence has been served.
In North Carolina, property theft is also subject to civil penalties for actual or punitive damages. The civil penalty cannot be more than three times the value of the assets acquired by the defendant. Property or instrumentality used in chop shop activity is also subject to seizure and forfeiture.
Defenses for Chop Shop Activity
A chop shop activities lawyer has a variety of tactics they can use to defend you against chop shop activity charges. Here are some of them:
Lack of Knowledge
In court, the prosecutor must establish that you were aware of the activities. However, this means that a defense lawyer can argue that you had no knowledge of the unlawful activities, and you should not be convicted. Likewise, you shouldn’t be convicted if you were unaware that the vehicles or vehicle parts were stolen.
Lack of Intent
The prosecution must show that you intended to steal, alter or destroy vehicle or vehicle parts. A chop shop activities lawyer may argue that you did not intend to participate in chop shop activities. You might avoid conviction or get lesser charges if the chop shop activities lawyer creates reasonable doubt.
A skilled lawyer can challenge the prosecution’s evidence to avoid a guilty verdict. More evidence is needed to prove chop shop activities to avoid a conviction.
You Were Not the Owner
Perhaps you took over a business with its former owner involved in chop shop activities. However, you were not aware of the situation and have done no illegal practices since acquiring ownership. A defense lawyer can establish that you were not the shop’s owner when the illegal activities occurred.
A lawyer will closely examine the details of your case and decide on the best legal approach to handle your case.
Hire a Skilled Lawyer When Facing Chop Shop Activity Charges in North Carolina
Your best option for successfully fighting chop shop activity charges is to consult an experienced criminal defense lawyer. A chop shop activities lawyer from King Law will represent you in any criminal case involving chop shop activity charges in North Carolina. In courts, these charges are prosecuted harshly, and because any statement you make can be used against you, it is advisable to hire legal counsel and let your lawyer speak on your behalf.
At King Law, our chop shop activities lawyers have won many cases and have had years of successful experience defending our clients. Contact our lawyers immediately if you are charged with chop shop activity. Call us today at (888) 748-5464 or (888) 748-KING for a consultation. Alternatively, you can complete our contact form.