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Some may know and others may not, but did you know that every vehicle has a unique Vehicle Identification Number (VIN)? Many states, including Kansas, have a criminal offense for removing or altering a VIN number or unique engine number. This offense can also include switching these identification numbers from one vehicle to another or reporting false identification numbers on a car registration. In Kansas, this offense is classified as a felony and requires no less than one year imprisonment, but can be up to five years maximum imprisonment!

Why is this a crime? To some, the reasons may be obvious. While I know I could never cover every reason a legislature would pass such a law, I know from my prior experience as a prosecutor that a quick identification of a vehicle is often necessary for officer safety and to investigate crimes. I believe states with similar laws want to discourage people from making it difficult to determine the origin of a vehicle or who owns the vehicle according to registration records. Often, at the side of the road, an officer must determine quickly if the vehicle is registered correctly and if it is in the right person’s possession.

To argue both sides of the coin, do these types of laws also criminalize accidental removal or destruction of a VIN number? I believe, as far as Kansas anyway, the answer would be “no.” The relevant Kansas statute states that the removal must be done “for the purposes of concealing the vehicle’s identity.” If other states have this similar language, I believe a prosecutor would HAVE to prove that the removal was not only done, but done with an intent to hide the vehicle’s identity.

The Kansas Statute referenced in this blog is KSA 8-113. I welcome any comments or thoughts on similar laws or further conversation about the purpose of such a law. Until next time!