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Is it a crime to possess an item with an altered serial number?

On Behalf of | Oct 13, 2023 | Criminal Defense

Serial numbers may look like a random assortment of characters, but they’re invaluable in helping deter theft and counterfeiting. While they’re called “serial numbers,” they often combine numbers with letters and other characters to ensure the item bearing them has a unique identifier. Many things have serial numbers, such as bank notes, smartphones, automobiles, electronics and even firearms.

It’s a crime to alter or deface the serial number of any item, per New Hampshire law. Those who break the law should be prepared to pay heavy fines.

State law on possessing an item with an altered serial number

According to state law, anyone who knowingly possesses, sells or disposes of any machine or device with full knowledge that the serial numbers have been removed, altered or defaced can face misdemeanor charges.

Likewise, anyone who knowingly alters, removes or defaces the serial numbers of any device to prevent the discovery of the item’s connection to crime, conceal the item’s identity, defraud the manufacturer or hinder servicing for the item is also violating the law. A misdemeanor charge awaits those who destroy serial numbers.

Penalties for altered serial numbers

Possessing an item with altered serial numbers or changing serial numbers is a Class B misdemeanor. Although Class B misdemeanors in New Hampshire usually don’t lead to jail time on conviction, the convicted will have to pay as much as $1,200 in fines. No matter how minor, misdemeanors are also recorded on a person’s criminal record.

Altered serial numbers can be trouble

To summarize, having an item with an altered or defaced serial number is punishable by law. Even if the item lost its serial number by accident – perhaps due to actions like painting or polishing – a person can get into trouble with officials if discovered. It may be a minor misdemeanor charge, but those facing accusations should consider their legal options to avoid a criminal record.

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