New California Law Makes Possessing 9 or More Catalytic Converters Illegal

New California Law Makes Possessing 9 or More Catalytic Converters Illegal

Deputy Jaime Moran from the Los Angeles Sheriff's Department engraves the catalytic converter of a vehicle with a traceable number in City of Industry, California, on July 14, 2021. (Frederic J. Brown/AFP via Getty Images)

Rudy Blalock

Rudy Blalock

10/12/2023

Updated: 12/30/2023

California lawmakers continue to address the growing catalytic converter theft problem in the state with recent legislation approved by the governor limiting the number of converters one can possess.
Assembly Bill 641, authored by Assemblyman Vince Fong (R-Bakersfield), and going into effect Jan. 1, will require anyone in possession of nine or more catalytic converters to be a licensed automobile dismantler, which under state law is a person in the business of buying, selling, or dealing automobiles and their parts, according to the lawmakers who drafted the bill.
Under current law, acting as such without an established business storefront, permit, or license, carries a misdemeanor fine of at least $250 for the first offense, $500 for the second, and a minimum $1,000 fine for the third or any thereafter.
Under the new law, those in possession of nine or more converters and who are unlicensed will first receive a maximum $100 infraction and follow the same penalties for those thereafter.
In a recent Senate analysis of the bill, Mr. Fong said the new law will especially help low-income families already facing financial hardships due to inflation, high costs of rent, and groceries.
“Catalytic converter theft costs them money that could have gone to pay the bills, and loopholes must be closed to stop these rampant thefts. AB 641 will give law enforcement the tool they need to crack down on catalytic converter theft and unlicensed dismantling,” Mr. Fong wrote.
According to data from 2021 cited in the bill analysis, converters can be sold by thieves for $25 to as much as $500, depending on the type and vehicle from which they were stolen.
Catalytic converters, which are a necessary component in a vehicle’s exhaust system to help reduce harmful emissions, also contain precious metals such as palladium and rhodium, making them a target for thieves. Lawmakers said that according to recent price trackers, the price of palladium in March was around $1,450 per ounce.
Three juveniles are in custody and nearly a dozen catalytic converters have been recovered following a short pursuit that ended in a crash in Ventura County, Calif., on Nov. 23, 2021. (Courtesy of the Ventura County Police)

Three juveniles are in custody and nearly a dozen catalytic converters have been recovered following a short pursuit that ended in a crash in Ventura County, Calif., on Nov. 23, 2021. (Courtesy of the Ventura County Police)

According to the National Insurance Crime Bureau—a U.S. industry trade association focusing on vehicle theft and insurance fraud—the number of converter thefts has increased by over 4,000 percent from 2018 to 2022, with over 60,000 insurance claims filed for such nationwide in 2022. In the same year, California accounted for nearly 40 percent of all thefts nationwide, according to the bureau, as cited in the bill’s analysis.
The California District Attorneys Association said in a recent Assembly analysis in support of the bill that the new law will help penalize thieves even if the stolen converters can’t be traced to their original owners.
“AB 641 will improve public safety and give law enforcement the tools they need to hold thieves accountable … thieves caught with converters could be charged with unlicensed vehicle dismantling, regardless of whether the catalytic converters can be tracked to a victim,” they wrote.
Additional legislation enacted last year to deter converter thefts, according to lawmakers, included criminalizing the purchase of used converters from unauthorized sellers and another that requires recyclers to take additional steps in tracking ownership of converters, including tracking the VIN number on such—if any—to confirm ownership of the converter.
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Rudy Blalock

Rudy Blalock

Author

Rudy Blalock is a Southern California-based daily news reporter for The Epoch Times. Originally from Michigan, he moved to California in 2017, and the sunshine and ocean have kept him here since. In his free time, he may be found underwater scuba diving, on top of a mountain hiking or snowboarding—or at home meditating, which helps fuel his active lifestyle.

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