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California’s New Bill Combats Catalytic Converter Theft 

California’s New Bill Combats Catalytic Converter Theft

Senators Umberg and Portantino introduced legislation to put an end to catalytic converter thefts, which have been on the rise in San Diego County and around the country. Senate Bill 986, presented on May 19, 2022, would require the devices to be marked with vehicle identifying numbers, tighten sales procedures, and raise theft penalties.

The Law Currently in Place

Existing law requires a core recycler that accepts, ships, or sells used catalytic converters to keep detailed records of the catalytic converters’ purchase and sale. Unless the seller is a business, and the core recycler obtains a photograph or video of the seller, a written statement regarding the origin of the catalytic converter, and certain other identifying information, as specified, existing law prohibits a core recycler from providing payment for a catalytic converter unless the payment is made by check, the check is mailed or provided no earlier than 3 days after the date of sale, and the seller is a business. Current law exempts a core recycler who buys used catalytic converters, transmissions, or other parts removed from a vehicle from this requirement if the core recycler and the seller have a written agreement for the transaction. A core recycler is required by law to provide this information on demand for inspection by local law enforcement. Infractions of these provisions are classified as misdemeanors.

How Bill 986 Changes Existing Law

Instead of a check, this bill would require payment by any traceable method other than cash. The bill would also require that the exemption for catalytic converters received under a written agreement include a regularly updated log or record describing each catalytic converter received under the agreement, as specified.
This measure would make it illegal for a dealer or retailer to sell a new or used car with a catalytic converter unless the converter is engraved or etched with the vehicle identification number of the vehicle to which it is attached. An infraction would be imposed if this condition was broken.

The Answer?

They are seeking to close the gap by engraving or etching the vehicle identification number on the catalytic converter. They’re attempting to find a stolen converter and connect it to the vehicle from which it was reported stolen. It is the responsibility of the car dealer to mark the catalytic converter on new and used vehicles sold in California. Before selling any vehicle, new and used car dealers would be required to permanently mark the vehicle identification number, or VIN, on the catalytic converter.

Fines for catalytic converter theft would be increased. A person who knowingly and deliberately breaches the provisions of this section will be fined $1,000 for the first offense, $2,000 for the second, and a fine of no less than $4,000 for the third or subsequent crime under the law if convicted. In addition to the fine issued for the second infraction, the court may order the defendant to stop operating as a core recycler for a term not to exceed 30 days. In addition to the $4000 punishment, the court must require the defendant to stop operating as a core recycler for at least one year.

The Issue

Of course, there are a few gaps in the bill that must be closed before this bill becomes fully effective. However, as a company working to demystify the catalytic converter recycling sector, we are really delighted to see some response to this extremely critical issue.

Even though the danger outweighs the profit, there is concern that the penalty is insufficient. Unfortunately, these thieves and those who facilitate theft are already willing to put themselves in jeopardy with the law for enough money. Our concern is that there may be larger entities driving this activity in the stolen catalytic converter market, and a few thousand dollars in fines may not be enough to combat this crime.

Another issue is that the additional VIN or identifying number may fade and wither with time and in various conditions. With over a decade in this market, we’ve come across converter part numbers that are rusted and sometimes entirely corroded, which makes assessing the worth more difficult because you can’t tell what kind of car they came from. As a result, adding an additional number code to the catalytic converter would have to be done in a way that insured its viability in the future. While we endorse the idea of adding an identification number, we are skeptical that automotive dealers will be able to do so without the necessary tools and training. Taking humidity and weather conditions into account. Otherwise, what would you do in a few years, regardless of whether the converter is stolen or not, if the VIN number is unreadable?

Overall, this bill represents a significant step forward in California’s fight against catalytic converter theft. As with pollution limits, California appears to be the home of many rules that spread to other states. Our aim is that this type of crime will decline across the state, and that more and more offenders will reconsider stealing a converter from someone else’s car.


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