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Is it a Crime to Tamper with a Serial Number in Virginia?

In Virginia, it may be a crime to tamper with identification numbers. Although this concept may seem abstract at first, there are many scenarios that may give rise to identification number-related offenses. For example, most of us have either seen or heard about how some criminals erase Vehicle Identification Numbers. This crime is not limited to motor vehicles. To the contrary, it can be applicable in a large variety of situations. For a fact-specific inquiry, speak with your local Virginia Beach Criminal Lawyer.

Many people are unaware of the statute that allows people to mark any personal property with his or her social security number, but the numbers must be preceded by the letters “VA.” (See Virginia Code Section 18.2-96.1). Thus, identification numbers can be created by either the owner of a piece of personal property, or by the manufacturer of the item itself. The crime that references these identification methods prohibits tampering with these identification numbers without consent of the owner, and where the intent by the actor is to make the property unidentifiable.

Not only is it a crime to tamper with identification markings on personal property, it is also a crime to possess goods knowing that the identification number has been tampered with, where the intended purpose of such tampering is to conceal the true identity of the property. The nature of property can be counter intuitive; if you have questions, your local Virginia Beach Criminal Defense Attorney may be willing to offer a consultation.

Although there are many serial number offenses, there is an absolute defense to the crime. If the person who is in possession of the property at issue is a legal owner and has applied with the Police for a new number, then that person may have an absolute defense. However, the defense is only viable if the possessor applied for the new identification number prior to the arrest, or issuance of a related arrest warrant. If you have a question regarding your case, it is best to take the charge seriously. Talk to your local Virginia Beach Criminal Lawyer to ensure the prosecution meets its burden.