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Criminal charges

chop shops

Chop shops are illegal automobile garages that buy stolen cars, disassemble them, and sell the individual parts for a profit. Chop shops often disassemble a car within hours of purchasing it from the thief who stole it—making it difficult for the police and the rightful owner to find the stolen vehicle. Chop shops are often operated in residential garages and small commercial spaces to avoid detection, but are usually part of a large criminal network or organization.

It is a crime under federal law (18 U.S.C. § 2322) to knowingly own, operate, maintain, or control a chop shop. There are significant fines and penalties under federal law for operating a chop shop—up to 15 years imprisonment for a first conviction, with the maximum fine and imprisonment doubled for any subsequent conviction.

States also have criminal laws (located in the penal or criminal code or statutes) that prohibit the operation of a chop shop. An offender may be prosecuted under state chop shop laws in addition to a federal prosecution, or instead of a federal prosecution.

In Texas, operating a 'chop shop' is a criminal offense under both federal and state law. Under federal law, specifically 18 U.S.C. § 2322, it is illegal to knowingly own, operate, maintain, or control a chop shop, with penalties including up to 15 years imprisonment for a first conviction and potential doubling of fines and imprisonment for subsequent convictions. Texas state law also criminalizes the operation of chop shops, and these laws are found within the Texas Penal Code. The state statutes address offenses related to the theft of motor vehicles, the receipt or possession of stolen vehicles, and the unauthorized use of a vehicle, all of which can be applied to the activities of chop shops. Violators can face severe penalties, including imprisonment, fines, and forfeiture of property. Offenders may be prosecuted under Texas state law either in addition to or instead of federal prosecution, depending on the specifics of the case and the discretion of law enforcement agencies.

Texas Statutes & Rules

Federal Statutes & Rules

18 U.S.C. § 2322 - Chop Shop and Related Activities Prohibited
This statute is directly relevant to the operation of chop shops as it defines the federal crime associated with chop shops and prescribes the penalties for those involved in such illegal activities.

Under 18 U.S.C. § 2322, it is a federal crime to knowingly own, operate, maintain, or control a chop shop or an area where stolen motor vehicles or motor vehicle parts are altered, destroyed, disassembled, dismantled, reassembled, or stored. The statute covers any person who knowingly buys, sells, or disposes of stolen motor vehicles or parts, or who knowingly assists in altering, destroying, disassembling, dismantling, reassembling, or storing them. The law applies when the motor vehicles or parts have crossed state or national borders, thus giving rise to federal jurisdiction. Penalties for a first conviction can include imprisonment for up to 15 years, fines, or both. For subsequent convictions, the maximum penalties can be doubled, leading to up to 30 years of imprisonment and increased fines. The statute is designed to combat the illicit trade in stolen vehicles and parts, which is often linked to organized crime and has significant economic impact on individuals and the automotive industry.