Section 511(a) of Title 18 of the U.S. Code makes it a felony to knowingly tamper with a vehicle identification number, with some exceptions. Possible penalties may include a fine and imprisonment for up to five years.
Section 511(b) of Title 18 specifies certain situations where tampering, removal, obliteration or alteration of a VIN is allowed. These exceptions include vehicle scrap processing, necessary repairs or restoration and actions pursuant to the Motor Vehicle Theft Prevention Act, which is covered by Section 14171 of Title 42 of the U.S. Code. All exceptions to the federal law must be in accordance with applicable state laws, which may differ.