Accused of Owning a Chop Shop: Why Legal Representation is Imperative
Being accused of owning and operating a chop shop can land an individual in a great deal of trouble. Owing to the nature of these types of operations, the potential for criminal and civil suits to arise is significant. By understanding how serious these charges happen to be, it’s easier to see why seeking legal help as soon as possible is the best approach.
What is a Chop Shop?
A chop shop is a facility that is devoted to the task of dismantling vehicles in order to harvest the parts and use them to make repairs to other vehicles. In many cases, the process will involve removing everything that can possibly be of use. Whatever parts are not needed now and are not likely to be needed in the immediate future can be sold clandestinely as a way to generate other profits.
While there’s nothing illegal about stripping a car and salvaging parts, the means of obtaining vehicles to strip is where the problem arises. The owners of chop shops typically obtain vehicles by either stealing them or paying others to arrange and execute the thefts.
Chop shops are also used to alter the look and identifying markings of a stolen vehicle to the extent that the theft cannot be traced. Once the changes are made, it’s possible for the car or truck to be assigned the registration number of a salvaged vehicle and sell it for a clear profit.
Is It Easy to Prove Ownership or Operation?
Several things must happen before the accused party can be convicted. One has to do with confirming that the individual owns the building or property where the activity took place. This is usually not difficult to accomplish, since public records will provide the answer. In the event the property is held by a business operation, it may take some investigation to go through a series of checks to find the ultimate owner of the property.
Even if the ownership is established, there must be a direct connection with the owner and the way the property is used. For example, the property owner may have leased warehouse space to a tenant, with the understanding the space would be used for storage only. If the legal counsel can present evidence that the tenant operated the chop shop and went to considerable effort to hide the fact from the owner, there’s a good chance of avoiding conviction.
The Ramifications of Being Charged with Operating a Chop Shop
Since the activities that take place in chop shops are illegal, the consequences for anyone convicted of owning and operating such a facility can be severe. A lot has to do with local laws and what sort of penalties a judge must mete out in order to comply with those laws. The situation can be complicated if there is evidence that stolen vehicles were transported over state lines with the intent to dismantle or otherwise alter them.
In the best case scenario, the judge may determine that the circumstances merit classing the offense as a misdemeanor. When this is the case, the individual may spend up to one year in jail. A fine is also likely to be included in the mix, along with a short period of probation.
Should the aspects of the case merit classification as a felony, the convicted party can expect to spend a longer period of time behind bars. There will also be a fine to pay, typically much more than the maximum amount applied to misdemeanors. Probation is also likely to apply with a felony charge.
Never assume that a charge of owning and operating a chop shop is something that can be dismissed with ease. The best approach is to secure legal counsel and provide as much information as possible. The attorney will know how to obtain additional evidence that has a bearing on the case and ensure that the curt takes that evidence into consideration.