Tampering with Identification Numbers: Texas Penal Code §31.11

Texas Criminal Law

Martindale-Hubbell AV Preeminent Rating badge featuring AV logo on left and the Martindale logo on top

The Texas Tampering with Identification Numbers law gives police the right to arrest you if they believe you removed or altered a serial number on any tangible personal property (such as a vehicle’s VIN number) or if you possessed, sold, or offered for sale any such property if you knew or should have know that the serial number was altered or removed.

The Texas legislature codified this criminal offense in Texas Penal Code Section 31.11. The legislature did not update this law in 2023. In fact, this law has not been amended since 2009.

The Penal Code codifies the Texas Tampering with Identification Numbers law under Title 7 “Offenses Against Property,” Chapter 31 “Theft.” Learn more about the Texas offense of Tampering with Identification Numbers below.

What is the current Texas law about Tampering with Identification Numbers?

The current Texas law defines the offense of Tampering with Identification Numbers in Penal Code Section §31.11 as follows:[1]

(a) A person commits an offense if the person:

(1) knowingly or intentionally removes, alters, or obliterates the serial number or other permanent identification marking on tangible personal property; or

(2) possesses, sells, or offers for sale tangible personal property and:

(A) the actor knows that the serial number or other permanent identification marking has been removed, altered, or obliterated; or

(B) a reasonable person in the position of the actor would have known that the serial number or other permanent identification marking has been removed, altered, or obliterated.

How can I be charged with a Tampering with Identification Numbers offense in Texas?

You can be charged with Tampering with Identification Numbers in Texas if the state’s attorneys believe that each of the elements of 31.11(a) as described in the section above have been met.

What is the statute of limitation for Tampering with Identification Numbers in Texas?

As a misdemeanor, Tampering with Identification Numbers charges have a two-year limitations period.[2]

What is the penalty for a Texas Tampering with Identification Numbers offense?

A conviction for Tampering with Identification Numbers in Texas is punished as a Class A misdemeanor,[3] with a maximum possible fine under Texas state law of up to $4,000 and jail time of up to one year. Learn about the differences between grades of felonies and misdemeanors here.

Can you get probation for Tampering with Identification Numbers in Texas?

The Texas Code of Criminal Procedure allows both judges and juries to grant probation for Tampering with Identification Numbers, and judges are also allowed to accept deferred adjudication plea deals.[4]

Note, however, that judges may not grant community supervision after a conviction if (1) the defendant used or exhibited a deadly weapon during the commission of the felony or immediate flight thereafter and (2) the defendant used or exhibited the deadly weapon himself or was a party to the offense and knew that a deadly weapon would be used or exhibited.[5]

What level of crime is Tampering with Identification Numbers in Texas?

The Penal Code classifies the punishment for Tampering with Identification Numbers as a Class A misdemeanor.

Learn more about the penalty range for this offense in the section above.


^1. Texas Penal Code §31.11. This law is current as of the 88th Legislature Regular Session.^2. See Code of Criminal Procedure 12.02(a)^3. Texas Penal Code §31.11(d)^4. See Chapter 42, Texas Code of Criminal Procedure, Art. 42A.054, Art. 42A.056, Art. 42A.102 .^5. Art. 42A.054(b), Texas Code of Criminal Procedure


Martindale-Hubbell AV Preeminent Rating badge featuring AV logo on left and the Martindale logo on top

Arrested or Charged With a Crime?