You can visit an auto repair shop if your car needs repairs or replacement parts. Most auto repair shops are licensed to perform services and repairs and even have original equipment manufacturer (OEM) certification to ensure that the parts they use are authentic and compatible.
However, there are also auto shops that deal with stolen cars and parts. Called “chop shops,” these establishments are illegal under Colorado law, and anyone who does business with such a shop can face penalties.
The law on chop shops
Per state law, it’s unlawful for a person to willingly operate a chop shop. It’s also forbidden to transport a stolen motor vehicle or auto part to a chop shop and sell to or purchase from a chop shop with full knowledge that the establishment is illegal.
Anyone convicted of owning a chop shop faces a Class 4 felony, which leads to as much as $500,000 in fines and up to six years in prison. Meanwhile, those convicted of transporting, buying or selling vehicles/parts to chop shops get a Class 5 felony on record, which results in a maximum $100,000 fine and up to three years in prison.
Those who bring stolen automobiles or parts to a chop shop may also face additional charges for motor vehicle theft.
Altering vehicle identification numbers is illegal
In addition to running an unlawful establishment, the owner of a chop shop may also face charges for changing or removing a vehicle identification number (VIN). This VIN tampering offense can happen in several ways, such as:
- Removing, changing, counterfeiting, and defacing the VIN, manufacturer’s or engine number of a vehicle or auto part to misrepresent or conceal its identity from customers and officials.
- Possessing, buying, selling, or disposing of a motor vehicle or auto part with an altered, defaced or counterfeited VIN/engine number.
This offense is a Class 5 felony. If a court convicts a chop shop owner of the crime, they will have to pay as much as $100,000 in fines and serve up to three years in imprisonment.
Supporting an unlawful business can lead to trouble
Even if you don’t operate a chop shop or are unaware that an auto shop you frequent is illegal, you might face charges. Besides the hundreds of thousands of dollars in fines and years of prison time, you risk getting a felony on your criminal record if a court convicts you. The court hearing over your charges is critical, so consider legal counsel.