Santa Ana’s State Senator, Tom Umberg, is working on a new law to target the theft of catalytic converters. The new proposed law will however mandate that car dealers apply a vehicle identification number (VIN) to the catalytic converter of each vehicle listed for sale. What the new law does not do is increase the criminal penalties for stealing the converters.
Stealing a catalytic converter is currently a crime under California law, which categorizes this offense as either petty theft or grand theft based on whether or not more than $950 worth of goods were stolen.
Our preference would be to also treat the theft of catalytic converters as grand theft given that replacing the stolen converters not only includes the cost to replace them but also the service involved – easily making it a loss of up to $4,000.
We would also like to see a mandatory prison sentence of at least two years for theft of catalytic converters and a fine of at least $5,000. If the State of California keeps coddling thieves then they will continue to rob us blind.
Here is a recap of how the State of California currently handles thefts courtesy of Bulldog Bail Bonds:
Petty theft is a misdemeanor crime in California. The penalties for committing petty theft are:
- Up to 6 months in county jail.
- A max fine of $1,000.
Grand theft is a wobbler crime in California, meaning that it can either be charged as a misdemeanor or as a felony depending on the facts of the cases. As a misdemeanor, the penalties for grand theft are:
- Up to 1 year in county jail.
- A max fine of $1,000.
As a felony, the penalties increase to:
- 16 months, 2 years, or 3 years in county jail.
- A max fine of $10,000.
- Felony probation.
Most converter thieves don’t just steal one converter. They steal as many as they can get their hands on. In fact California is leading the entire U.S. in converter thefts, which have increased over 600% in the last two years.
Here is Umberg’s press release:
State Senator Anthony J. Portantino (D – La Cañada Flintridge) joined Senator Tom Umberg to announce the introduction of Senate Bill 986, a measure that combats catalytic converter theft by requiring dealers to apply a vehicle identification number (VIN) to the catalytic converter of each vehicle listed for sale. Los Angeles County District Attorney George Gascón and LAPD Chief Michel Moore joined Senators Portantino and Umberg today during a press conference to announce the bill.
“Catalytic converter thefts are rising and serious. It is a crime that is affecting an increasing number of families in the 25th State Senate District and across the state,” stated Senator Portantino. “We must enact tougher law enforcement strategies and penalties to combat it. SB 986 offers a simple common sense solution to eliminating the legal challenges of prosecuting the theft of catalytic converters. The bill will also result in a reduction of thefts of used convertors, which is good news for both victims and law enforcement. I am proud to be a joint author of this measure with Senator Umberg and I look forward to working with him to curb the rise of catalytic thefts in our state.”
An imprinted serial number relating to the unique Vehicle Identification Number (VIN) identifies most major parts of vehicles sold in the United States. It is these identification markings that allow law enforcement to establish that parts are stolen, even if the stolen vehicle has already been fully broken down. However, this serial number identification process does not currently apply to catalytic converters. As a result, law enforcement may make arrests of individuals in possession of dozens or even hundreds of suspect catalytic converters — but be unable to prove a case in court because there is no way to identify the victims of crime to show that these parts are stolen. The application of a VIN to a catalytic converter is usually done by etching, in a process that is both easy and inexpensive.
“For whatever reason, car part thieves are perceived as emtpy-headed. The reality, however, is that catalytic converter theft can be quite lucrative. This bill is an important step forward in protecting California consumers, aiding our law enforcement agencies with enforcement, and continuing to crack down on illegal and environmentally-degrading car-part and vehicle disposal. We owe it to our communities to be more responsible, as a state, in regulating these illegal activities,” stated Senator Umberg.
Senate Bill 986 will require dealers to mark the catalytic converters of vehicles up for sale. The measure will also require core recyclers to record the unique identification number on each catalytic converter. Under SB 986, the core recycler’s obligation will only be relieved if the used catalytic converter, that was purchased or sold under a specified written agreement, is described with sufficient particularity. Upon request from local law enforcement, the burden will fall on the core recycler to prove that the catalytic converter was purchased under the specified written agreement.
“Catalytic converters have become a popular target of theft because they contain valuable metals and are untraceable and easy to sell,” District Attorney Gascón said. “This bill will give law enforcement important tools that will reduce property crime and save consumers the money and hassle of replacing the stolen parts.”