Metal Theft

Scrap Metal regulations and information.

Scrap Metal regulations and information

Junk Dealers
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Scrap Metal Regulations
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Sting Operations

(a) Penal Code, Section 496a: Operations
Problems: Due diligence, items commonly used by a utility
Examples: People v. Cramblit (1978) 84 Cal.App.3d 437
Intent: None
Standard: Civil negligence standard. Defendant’s actions are compared to those of how a reasonable junk dealer or recycler would act under like conditions.
Penalty: Felony/Misdemeanor. State Prison or county jail.
These operations will work well where the items are clearly marked and identified as being from a utility. In addition, numerous contacts will need to be made in order to establish a custom or practice. This will also help the undercover officer to familiarize themselves with the suspect. As a “relationship” is fostered it is more likely that the defendant will make admissions. The officer can hint and even state directly to the defendant that the items being sold were stolen. The best cases are those where the suspects ask no questions about the merchandise.

(b) B & P Code, Section 12512
Intent: None
Standard: Strict Liability
Penalty: Misdemeanor 6 months county jail and/or $1,000 fine.
This underweight section can be very effective primarily due to the fact that this section is a strict liability case. Just as with all of these operations, a series of purchases is essential for a proper prosecution.

(c) B & P Code, Section 12721
Standard: Strict Liability
Penalty: Misdemeanor
Problem: Be aware of predetermined tares (B & P 12722, California Code of Regulations, Section 4400, etc.)
These are technical violations. This section along with several others may be used together for maximum penalties.

(d) B & P Code, Section 12733
Standard: Strict Liability
Penalty: Misdemeanor
Problems: Must ask for a certificate if the scale quantities are easily readable to both buyer and seller, but all purchases must be made by a licensed deputy at a licensed location.

(e) B & P Code, Section 17200
Penalty: $2,500 for each violation
Example: People v. Cappuccio (1988) 210 Cal.App.3d 770; In re Marley (1946) 29 Cal.2d 525.
Intent: None
This civil remedy should always be filed and pursued. It can levy huge fines and allow the D.A. great control over the case.


496a. Junk and secondhand dealers; purchasing metals used in transportation or public utility service; determination of seller’s right; punishment; record of transaction.
(a) Every person who, being a dealer in or collector of junk, metals or the agent, employee, or representative of such dealer or collector, buys or receives any wire, cable, copper, lead, solder, mercury, iron or brass which he knows or reasonably should know is ordinarily used by or ordinarily belongs to a railroad or other transportation, telephone, telegraph, gas, water or electric light company or county, city, city and county or other political subdivision of this state engaged if furnishing public utility service without using due diligence to ascertain that the person selling or delivering the same has a legal right to do so, is guilty of criminally receiving such property, and is punishable, by imprisonment in a state prison, or in a county jail for not more than one year, or by a fine of not more than two hundred fifty dollars ($250), or by both such fine and imprisonment.
(b) Any person buying or receiving material pursuant to subdivision (a) shall obtain evidence of his identity from the seller including, but not limited to, such person’s full name, signature, address, driver’s license number, vehicle license number, and the license number of the vehicle delivering the material.
The record of the transaction shall include an appropriate description of the material purchased and such record shall be maintained pursuant to Section 21607 of the Business and Professions Code.


When the sale of any commodity is based upon a quantity representation either furnished by the purchaser or obtained through the use of equipment supplied by him, the purchaser shall in no case buy the commodity according to any quantity which is less than the true quantity. Violation of this section is a misdemeanor.

(a) A weighmaster is responsible for ensuring that the weighmaster certificates issued by him or her, or a deputy acting for him or her, are complete and contain all the information required by Sections 12714, 12714.5, and 12715 that is applicable to each transaction.
(b) It is unlawful to issue, or cause to be issued, a weighmaster certificate if the certificate does not contain all the information required by Sections 12714, 12714.5, and 12715 for the commodity weighed, measured, or counted. The issuance of a receipt showing the weight, measure, or count of fish, mollusks, or crustaceans pursuant to Article 6 (commencing with Section 8010) of Chapter 1 of Part 3 of Division 6 of the Fish and Game Code constitutes the issuance of a weighmaster certificate under this chapter when issued by a person who is a weighmaster pursuant to Section 12700.

(a) There shall appear in an appropriate and conspicuous place on each certificate, and all copies thereof, the following legend:
THIS IS TO CERTIFY that the following described commodity was weighed, measured, or counted by a weighmaster, whose signature is on this certificate, who is a recognized authority of accuracy, as prescribed by Chapter 7 (commencing with Section 12700) of Division 5 of the California Business and Profession Code, administered by the Division of Measurement Standards of the California Department of Food and Agriculture.
(b) There shall also appear on each certificate, and all copies thereof, the printed name of the principal weighmaster as it appears on the license.

All information contained on the certificate shall be clear and legible. Each certificate shall be numbered consecutively.

Each certificate shall provide for the following information as applicable to the transaction:
(a) The date on which the weight, measure, or count was determined.
(b) The street address or location description and the city or township where the weighing, measuring, or counting occurred.
(c) The complete signature of the weighmaster who determined each weight, measure, or count. The name of a weighmaster may be imprinted electronically on the weighmaster certificate in lieu of a handwritten signature, if the electronically imprinted name is that of the weighmaster who weighed, measured, or counted the commodity or that of another weighmaster pursuant to Section 12712.
(d) The kind of commodity and any other information that may be necessary to identify the product or distinguish it from a similar commodity.
(e) The number of units of the commodity. If not personally determined by a weighmaster, the certificate shall contain the words “driver’s count” or “loader’s count,” as appropriate, after the number of commodity units. The abbreviation “D.C.” or “L.C.” may be used in lieu of the complete words.
(f) The name of the owner, or his or her agent, and the consignee. If the transaction involves hay or hay products, the name and address of the grower, and his or her agent, as provided by the driver of the vehicle.
(g) At least one of the following:
(1) The gross weight of the commodity and the vehicle or container, if only the gross weight was determined.
(2) The tare weight of the unladen vehicle or container, if only the tare weight was determined.
(3) The gross, tare, and net weights when a gross and tare are used in determining the net weight.
(4) The true net weight, measure, or count when no gross and tare weights are involved in determining the net quantity of the product.
(h) The tare weights, and the code identification or description of boxes, bins, pallets, or other containers.
(i) The correct identification of the vehicle, combination of vehicles, or other means by which the commodity was delivered. If an equipment number is used to identify a vehicle or combination of vehicles, there shall be traceability to the registered vehicle license numbers through the weighmaster’s records.