Simas & Associates, Ltd. Swiftly Defends Smog Technician - With Pen and Postage
San Luis Obispo, CA
â€” Simas & Associates, Ltd. recently helped a California smog technician overturn an erroneous invalidation notice
from the Bureau of Automotive Repair. And it was all done by mail.
"There was no interruption of his business, no one had to go to court," explained firm owner Steven L. Simas. "Rather, we immediately asserted our client's rights in writing. And we respectively asked BAR to double-check the process they were engaging in. We believed them all to be in error, creating numerous due process violations with every step they took."
The State of Californiaâ€™s STAR program certifies independent businesses as smog check stations that can provide testing and repair. The BAR regulates the STAR program, including granting and revoking STAR certification to automobile inspection facilities, as well as citations to individual technicians. The BAR sends out hundreds of STAR invalidation notices to businesses and citations to technicians each year.
The BAR sent a notice to a California technician of being disqualified, but the notice was erroneous.
"There were several problems with the [disqualification] notice," explained Mr. Simas. "The most concerning was that the letter set an informal hearing with no charges. This meant that our client had no meaningful way to discern what he did wrong or how he could defend himself. "
This decertification letter from the BAR proposed an informal hearing as the next step. "However," continued Mr. Simas, "in this case, an informal hearing was not appropriate. Due to the lack of notice and information provided in the decertification letter, there was no way the client could mount a meaningful defense."
Simas & Associates, Ltd. immediately confronted the BAR with all of the above deficiencies. It also requested discovery and more information on the alleged deficiencies. This resulted in the BAR conducting a more thorough review of the allegations."
"When BAR completed their review, the disqualification was successfully overturned," stated Mr. Simas. "While we were ready to take the matter to hearing, we were able to get through to BAR and get them to see their own mistakes on their own without the need of a hearing."
Rule Not the Exception
Unfortunately, the above appears to be the rule with BAR.
"We are seeing a stream of new clients and potential clients who are receiving somewhat similar notices," added Mr. Simas. "Some notices are adequate. However, many overstate course-of-business actions or omissions as misconduct. And they threaten invalidation without much explanation as to why. Those overstatements could result in a station needlessly losing certification unless swift action is taken in response."
"BAR should not be able to invalidate a station's STAR certification without evidence and a formal administrative process, overseen by an administrative law judge, in which the BAR must comply with discovery rules," continued Mr. Simas. "This is where an attorney can help you save your skin."
Tips from the Pros
Here is some practical advice from Simas & Associates, Ltd. to California mechanics and automotive technicians:
- Watch Outâ€”Be on the lookout for correspondence from the BAR regarding your STAR certification.
- Act Quicklyâ€”If you receive a similar notification, contact your attorney right away.
- Donâ€™t Panicâ€”You can keep your STAR certification during the hearing and appeals process.