Can you hide your VIN to stop car thieves?

The in basket: Charlie Michel of Bremerton says he’s been getting e-mail warnings about methods car thieves use, including copying a vehicle’s VIN, which is visible on the dash through the windshield, and applying to a dealership for what they claim is a replacement key. The e-mails advise taping over the VIN so it can’t be read. Is that legal, Charlie asked.
The out basket: It’s probably not legal, but the wording of the law makes that something short of a sure thing. And my law enforcement contacts seem to regard enforcement when one is protecting one’s car from theft as highly unlikely.
The applicable law says that anyone with a vehicle on which the manufacturer’s serial number “has been removed, defaced, covered, altered, or destroyed” is guilty of a gross misdemeanor, which is worse than an infraction and conceivably can draw jail time.
But the law specifies that removing, defacing, covering, etc is illegal if done “for the purpose of concealment or misrepresenting the identity of the said vehicle.”
If there is no question that you own the car, that sounds like it would be a piece of cake to show in court that your covering of the VIN did not violate the law.
That would beat a citation. But another law allows law enforcement to impound a car with the VIN hidden or defaced, presumably to sort out its ownership. That would be costly even if no charge was brought.
After one of her superiors told me covering the VIN is legal, Trooper Krista Hedstrom, information officer for the local State Patrol office, dug a little deeper and said, “Yes, a citation could be issued, but we use common sense and I could not imagine anyone actually writing someone (a citation) for this.    
“…Vehicle Identification Numbers can be used to generate a new key for many cars,” she added. “However, a person cannot simply walk into a dealership and have a key made. Responsible dealerships require proof of ownership (identification, registration, title, etc.) and some states have laws that require it.
“While there are some thieves who may use VIN’s to have keys illegally made, the use of Vehicle Identification Numbers for locating and recovering stolen cars has been far more valuable than hiding them.”
Deputy Scott Wilson, Krista’s counterpart with Kitsap County Sheriff’s Office, said, “Our take on this is that if you have possession of a vehicle (whether
or not you actually own it doesn’t appear to apply here) and you cover
the VIN for the purpose of concealing the VIN, then you are in violation
of the law.
“The fact that a vehicle owner/operator is covering the VIN to prevent
someone from having a duplicate key made is something that will need to
be addressed by the court, if a driver is ever actually charged with this offense,” Scott said.
Their final answer, he said, is ” Leave the VINs alone.”

4 thoughts on “Can you hide your VIN to stop car thieves?

  1. Not sure if I’m doing this right as this is my first time sending in a comment. I am wondering what is going on with the Illahee version of the Grand Canyon located on Illahee Rd past Varsity Lane? The last I heard from the Country Road crew is they are waiting for permits from the state. It is now just about 5 months since the damage was done with a promise by everyone including the governor to get this fixed within 6 months. I’m hearing rumors it might actually be over a year before its fixed. Why can’t this get expedited so that the residents living along Illahee Road can get back to normal?

  2. I had several keys made for my Mercedes and giving them the VIN number was not enough, they wanted a copy of the registration and my drivers license to issue a key.

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