Odometer Fraud Penalty in Florida
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) estimates sellers sell more than 450,000 vehicles yearly with false odometer readings. Unfortunately, sellers often tamper with the car’s odometer reading to make it more attractive to buyers. After all, it’s much better to buy a used car with 10,000 miles on it rather than 50,000.
Buying a used car comes with unique challenges since most buyers aren’t mechanical experts who can thoroughly inspect a vehicle. This is why many feel that buying a new car in Florida is much easier, despite the hassle of negotiating with a car dealer. It’s also why companies like CarFax and Kelley Blue Book have built entire businesses to help consumers understand used vehicles.
But the bigger question here is – is it illegal to change the mileage on a car?
Yes, tampering with the odometer is unlawful under both state and federal law, resulting in penalties for those who commit this crime. So read on to learn more about the odometer fraud penalty in Florida according to Florida traffic laws.
What Is Odometer Fraud?
Florida Statute 319.35 defines odometer fraud as when a person knowingly tampers with the odometer of a motor vehicle to show a lower mileage than the car’s actual mileage. One cannot do the following to the vehicle’s odometer:
- Fail to connect
- Set back
The law also states that it’s illegal to provide a written odometer statement with false information on it or bring a vehicle with a rolled-back odometer into the state of Florida.
Is Odometer Fraud Illegal in Florida?
Rolling back a motor vehicle’s mileage is not only fraud and illegal but a felony. If someone sells or attempts to sell a car knowing that the mileage on the vehicle has been set back, altered, or adjusted, that is effectively stealing. A lower mileage vehicle is worth more than a higher mileage vehicle. Lower mileage means less wear and tear on the engine and the car in general.
If you have attempted to roll back the mileage on the odometer, disconnected an odometer, or otherwise tampered with an odometer and effectively lied about a vehicle’s mileage, you could be in serious trouble, facing severe criminal charges and as well as forfeiting the motor vehicle.
What Are the Penalties for Odometer Fraud in Florida?
The odometer fraud penalty in Florida is as follows:
- A maximum fine of $5,000
- Up to five years in prison
The crime is a third-degree felony.
However, when one violates odometer law, they face title fraud and grand theft charges. Both are felony crimes and carry much more severe criminal penalties.
Additionally, it’s common for Florida judges to prosecute fraud crimes aggressively. Judges don’t take abusing consumer trust lightly.
Why Is Odometer Fraud an Issue?
Odometer tampering is a problem because it costs buyers more than $1 billion in increased expenditures. Consumers who buy a car with a false odometer reading face the following increased expenses:
- Maintenance and repair
- Sales tax
These prices increase for buyers since vehicles with rolled-back odometers have a perceived higher value. So essentially, buyers end up paying higher fees for lower-value cars.
Not to mention, the vehicle will also have decreased safety, which can increase the severity of car accidents and related injuries. This, in turn, increases repair and healthcare costs for buyers.
How to Identify Odometer Fraud
If you suspect a seller tampered with the odometer of the vehicle you want to buy, here are some tips to help identify an odometer scam:
- Ask for the odometer disclosure statement the seller received when they bought the car to know the mileage when they purchased it
- Identify whether the vehicle has replacement tires
- If possible, contact the car’s previous owner to ask about mileage and the vehicle’s condition
- Look for maintenance records, oil-change stickers, or a warranty card that may indicate the vehicle’s mileage
- Look for signs of wear and tear on the gas and brake pedal pads or recent replacement of the pads, as well as wear and tear on the seats
- Review the original owner’s manual
- Scan the dashboard for loose screws
You can also check the door frame to see if there is a notice. When a mechanic repairs or replaces an odometer, and the odometer cannot register the same mileage as before, the mechanic will adjust the read to zero and place a notice in the door frame. The notice will detail the mileage before the repair or replacement.
Checking for wear and tear is crucial because cars with low mileage should have minimal wear and tear when a vehicle is newer. For instance, cars with less than 20,000 miles should have their original tires unless an accident occurred that required a replacement.
If the car has a significant amount of wear and suspiciously low mileage, you can suspect fraud.
Another way to check for fraud is by getting a CarFax report or other vehicle history report using the 17-digit vehicle identification number (VIN). Reports are available for cars from the following:
- Car dealerships
- Private sellers
- Used-car listings
If you still have doubts, ask a trusted mechanic to inspect the vehicle before you agree to purchase it.
Once you’re comfortable with the seller and deem the used vehicle in good condition, follow Florida Statute 319.22 to transfer the title correctly.
What Should You Do If You’re Accused of Odometer Fraud in Florida?
Unfortunately, odometer fraud is common in Tampa, so used car buyers are on the lookout for this crime. If someone falsely accuses you of odometer tampering, it’s best to involve an experienced attorney like Florida Ticket Firm.
Disclaimer: This is general advice and not intended for use in a court case. Each case is different and requires review by a lawyer.
Contact a Lawyer
In an odometer tampering case, the prosecution has the burden of proving you guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. Thus, hiring an odometer fraud lawyer is in your best interest. They know the problems prosecutors face when trying to prove your guilt and can craft a defense that raises doubt. If the judge or jury has any doubt, they will have to presume you’re innocent.
Hiring a lawyer from a reputable law firm is also helpful if you’re a victim of odometer fraud. If you’re worried about costs, know that in fraud cases, judges can usually award attorney’s fees to the victim when settling the case.
Additionally, fraud victims should contact the Motor Vehicle Fraud Unit to report the suspected fraud. Fill out form HSMV 80122 and submit it to the unit via mail, fax, or email:
Motorist Services Support
Motor Vehicle Fraud Unit
Room B361/MS69, Neil Kirkman Building
Tallahassee, FL 32399
Phone: (850) 617-2907
Fax: (850) 617-3952
Notifying the state of the fraud will ensure you don’t get in trouble for odometer tampering down the line if you want to resell the vehicle.
Don’t Give a Confession or Statement
If law enforcement arrests you for odometer fraud, don’t say anything. The prosecution will use anything you say (or do) against you in court.
Instead, invoke your right to remain silent. Do not give any information except for the following:
- Birth date
Also, invoke your right to an attorney, and contact your lawyer immediately. Then, you can work with your attorney to prove your innocence.
Why Should You Hire Florida Ticket Firm as Your Odometer Fraud Lawyer?
Our experienced criminal defense attorneys understand the problematic proof issues when accused of rolling back a vehicle’s mileage and tampering with an odometer and how best to defend someone accused of rolling back mileage on an odometer or tampering with an odometer.
If you are accused of rolling back mileage on a motor vehicle or disabling an odometer, you want to immediately speak with an experienced criminal defense attorney before saying anything to law enforcement. Remember that anything you say can and will be used against you. Don’t make the state’s case easier by attempting to speak on your own behalf. You want an experienced criminal defense lawyer to speak for you.
Get Help for Your Case
If you have been charged with rolling back mileage on an odometer or otherwise tampering with an odometer in Broward County, Miami-Dade County, Palm Beach County, Martin County, or St. Lucie County, call Florida Ticket Firm today at 844-352-3476 for an initial FREE CONSULTATION with a knowledgeable odometer tampering ticket lawyer who knows the best way to attack the state’s criminal case. Florida Ticket Firm in Tampa can help you!