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California has cracked down on the theft of catalytic converters

On Behalf of | Dec 26, 2023 | Criminal Defense |

Thefts of catalytic converters from vehicles have increased in recent years. California has the unfortunate distinction of leading the country in these thefts, with about 30% of the total converters stolen, according to State Farm.

The value of a catalytic converter depends on the type of metal it’s made from, its age and condition. Of course, multiple converters can add up to a lot of money – when there’s a market for them.

State lawmakers across the country have taken steps to address the problem by increasing the criminal penalties for those convicted of these thefts as well as making it more difficult for those who steal them to make any money off them by selling them.

Taking away the black market for them

This year, California enacted two laws to try to dry up that market. The sponsor of one piece of legislation said it would “ensure that any purchaser of a catalytic converter is a licensed commercial enterprise and will make it more difficult for illegal sellers to get rid of their stolen goods.” As Gov. Gavin Newsom said in signing the laws, “You take away the market for stolen goods, you can help cut down on stealing.”

January brings more changes

Beginning on Jan. 1, 2024, two more laws are taking effect that are meant to deter these thefts. One allows prosecutors to charge someone with illegally dismantling an auto if they’re found with nine or more stolen catalytic converters. The other criminalizes removing the vehicle identification number (VIN) from one.

Local jurisdictions can enact their own, even harsher, laws to address catalytic converter theft. Further, while being charged with catalytic converter theft in itself is serious, too often, these thefts escalate into violence and even fatalities.

Because these thefts generally involve vehicles in parking lots or parked on streets or driveways, everything happens very fast. It can be easy to get caught up in something without realizing what’s going on or being at the wrong place at the wrong time. If you or a loved one is facing criminal charges, it’s crucial to seek legal guidance as soon as possible.

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