4549.62 Offenses with purpose to conceal or destroy identity.

(A) No person, with purpose to conceal or destroy the identity of a vehicle or vehicle part, shall remove, deface, cover, alter, or destroy any vehicle identification number or derivative of a vehicle identification number on a vehicle or vehicle part.

(B) No person, with purpose to conceal or destroy the identity of a vehicle or a vehicle part, shall remove, deface, cover, alter, or destroy any identifying number that has been lawfully placed upon a vehicle or vehicle part by an owner of the vehicle or vehicle part, other than the manufacturer, for the purpose of deterring its theft and facilitating its recovery if stolen.

(C) No person, with purpose to conceal or destroy the identity of a vehicle or vehicle part, shall place a counterfeit vehicle identification number or derivative of a vehicle identification number upon the vehicle or vehicle part.

(D)

(1) No person shall buy, offer to buy, sell, offer to sell, receive, dispose of, conceal, or, except as provided in division (D)(4) of this section, possess any vehicle or vehicle part with knowledge that the vehicle identification number or a derivative of the vehicle identification number has been removed, defaced, covered, altered, or destroyed in such a manner that the identity of the vehicle or part cannot be determined by a visual examination of the number at the site where the manufacturer placed the number.

(2)

(a) A vehicle or vehicle part from which the vehicle identification number or a derivative of the vehicle identification number has been so removed, defaced, covered, altered, or destroyed shall be seized and forfeited under Chapter 2981. of the Revised Code unless division (D)(3) or (4) of this section applies to the vehicle or part. If a derivative of the vehicle identification number has been removed, defaced, covered, altered, or destroyed in such a manner that the identity of the part cannot be determined, the entire vehicle is subject to seizure pending a determination of the original identity and ownership of the vehicle and parts of the vehicle, and the rights of innocent owners to reclaim the remainder or any part of the vehicle.

(b) The lawful owners of parts upon a vehicle that has been seized under this section and that is subject to forfeiture under Chapter 2981. of the Revised Code are entitled to reclaim their respective parts upon satisfactory proof of all of the following:

(i) That the part is not needed for evidence in pending proceedings involving the vehicle or part and is not subject to forfeiture under Chapter 2981. of the Revised Code;

(ii) That the original identity and ownership of the part can be determined and that the claimant is the lawful owner of the part;

(iii) That no vehicle identification number or derivative of a vehicle identification number on the part has been destroyed or concealed in such a manner that the identity of the part cannot be determined from that number;

(iv) Payment of all costs of removing the part.

(3) Divisions (A), (B), and (D)(1) and (2) of this section do not apply to the good faith acquisition and disposition of vehicles and vehicle parts as junk or scrap in the ordinary course of business by a scrap metal processing facility as defined in division (D) of section 4737.05 of the Revised Code or by a motor vehicle salvage dealer licensed under Chapter 4738. of the Revised Code. This division does not create an element of an offense or an affirmative defense, or affect the burden of proceeding with the evidence or burden of proof in a criminal proceeding.

(4)

(a) Divisions (D)(1) and (2) of this section do not apply to the possession of an owner, or the owner's insurer, who provides satisfactory evidence of all of the following:

(i) That the vehicle identification number or derivative thereof on the vehicle or part has been removed, defaced, covered, altered, or destroyed, after the owner acquired such possession, by another person without the consent of the owner, by accident or other casualty not due to the owner's purpose to conceal or destroy the identity of the vehicle or vehicle part, or by ordinary wear and tear;

(ii) That the person is the owner of the vehicle as shown on a valid certificate of title issued by this state or certificate of title or other lawful evidence of title issued in another state, in a clear chain of title beginning with the manufacturer;

(iii) That the original identity of the vehicle can be established in a manner that excludes any reasonable probability that the vehicle has been stolen from another person.

(b) The registrar of motor vehicles shall adopt rules under Chapter 119. of the Revised Code to permit an owner described in division (D)(4)(a) of this section, upon application and submission of satisfactory evidence to the registrar, to obtain authority to replace the vehicle identification number under the supervision of a peace officer, trooper of the state highway patrol, or representative of the registrar. The rules shall be designed to restore the identification of the vehicle in a manner that will deter its theft and facilitate its marketability. Until such rules are adopted, the registrar shall follow the existing procedure for the replacement of vehicle identification numbers that have been established by the registrar, with such modifications as the registrar determines to be necessary or appropriate for the administration of the laws the registrar is required to administer.

The registrar may issue a temporary permit to an owner of a motor vehicle who is described in division (D)(4)(a) of this section to authorize the owner to retain possession of the motor vehicle and to transfer title to the motor vehicle with the consent of the registrar.

(c) No owner described in division (D)(4)(a) of this section shall fail knowingly to apply to the registrar for authority to replace the vehicle identification number, within thirty days after the later of the following dates:

(i) The date of receipt by the applicant of actual knowledge of the concealment or destruction;

(ii) If the property has been stolen, the date thereafter upon which the applicant obtains possession of the vehicle or has been notified by a law enforcement agency that the vehicle has been recovered.

The requirement of division (D)(4)(c) of this section may be excused by the registrar for good cause shown.

(E) Whoever violates division (A), (B), (C), or (D)(1) of this section is guilty of a felony of the fifth degree on a first offense and a felony of the fourth degree on each subsequent offense.

(F) Whoever violates division (D)(4)(c) of this section is guilty of a minor misdemeanor.

Effective Date: 01-01-2004; 07-01-2007