Tuesday, November 13, 2012
PA Governor Signs Strong New Chop Shop Law
The Pennsylvania governor signed into law a bill that significantly strengthens the state's laws targeting chop shops and other auto crimes. Senate Bill 86, which takes effect the end of December, gives law enforcement the ability to inspect body shops (or any automotive business) "during normal business hours, or any other time when body work is being done" for the purpose of locating stolen vehicles or parts.
The measure contains new record-keeping requirements that must be available for these inspections for up to three years, as well as an entire section imposing stiffer penalties (up to 10 years in prison) and empowering the Commonwealth to seize all property, tools and equipment of a business found to be operating a chop shop.
With nearly unanimous passage by both legislative houses and signed by the governor on October 25, SB 86 says that "Any person who knowingly owns, operates or conducts a chop shop; or transports, sells, transfers, purchases or receives any vehicle or vehicle part that was illegally obtained either to or from a chop shop, commits a felony of the second degree and, upon conviction, shall be sentenced to imprisonment for not more than ten years or a fine of not more than $100,000, or both.
The law creates a broad scope of inspection powers providing that any police officer or authorized department employee may inspect any vehicle, or major component part, for which records are required to be kept, in any garage or repair shop or on the premises of any dealer, miscellaneous motor vehicle business, salvage motor vehicle auction or pool operator, salvor, scrap metal processor, or other public place of business which deals in the trade of vehicles or major component parts.
New record-keeping requirements have also been beefed up, including a requirement (among others) that shops keep a photocopy of a government-issued form of photo identification from the person towing or selling a vehicle or major component part, including their driver's license number and location from where the vehicle or major component part was towed or sold and the business name, address, license number and contact number of the towing company.
The records shall be maintained for three years.
If inspection under the law reveals stolen vehicles, or major component parts with identification numbers, Federal certification labels, anti-theft labels or parts stickers removed, altered or falsified, any police officer or authorized department employee may seize those vehicles or vehicle parts, and the entire business as well as any "instrumentalities used to facilitate criminal activity."