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Is it okay to remove or alter a product’s identification numbers?

On Behalf of | Oct 24, 2023 | Criminal Defense |

Most consumer products have some form of identification number. However, some products also have unique serial numbers to designate individual items. These include radios, washing machines, watches, vacuum cleaners and even safes.

Unique serial numbers are essential for several reasons. For example, they help manufacturers track their products and verify their eligibility for warranty coverage.

Because they serve an important function, it’s a criminal offense to conceal or alter a product’s identification numbers in Indiana. No matter the reason – whether to hide a product’s involvement in another crime or to intentionally void an item’s warranty – anyone accused of the offense can face penalties.

The law on identification numbers

Per Indiana law, a person who intentionally damages, conceals or alters a product’s identification number, without the original manufacturer’s consent, commits the offense of impairment of identification. The offense is a Class A misdemeanor.

The penalties

A conviction for removing or altering a product’s identification numbers leads to up to a year in prison and as much as $5,000 in fines. These are the same penalties faced by those convicted of battery, petty theft and rioting.

Which items fall under the law?

Indiana has a list of consumer products with product numbers that can’t be tampered with. Including the items mentioned in the first paragraph, they are:

  • Adding machines
  • Bicycles
  • Computer parts
  • Phonographs
  • Pianos
  • Printed circuits
  • Sewing machines
  • Typewriters
  • Any mechanical or electrical device/appliance/equipment

The law covers any item with a unique serial number, which applies to most consumer appliances, electronics and even things like car engines and firearms.

Removing a product’s serial numbers may sound inoffensive, especially if a person accidentally defaces the numbers. But Indiana comes down hard on anyone who violates the law. Those who face charges shouldn’t underestimate the consequences they potentially face.

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