STAR Invalidation Information Question and Answer with Attorney William Ferreira
The STAR Program is a complicated and logistical nightmare. California’s Bureau of Automotive Repair sends out upwards of 1000 STAR Certificate Invalidations a year. One small misstep and your STAR Certification and your ability to test directed vehicles is gone. For some shops, this is upwards of 60%-70% of their business. Simply put – there are not many facilities in enhanced areas that could survive without STAR. We have put together this Question and Answer Series to answer some commonly answered questions about California’s STAR Program:
I received a STAR Invalidation from the Bureau of Automotive Repair. What do I do?
The short answer – appeal. I don’t care the reason. Appeal the STAR Invalidation before the deadline listed in the STAR Invalidation letter. As far as how to appeal under what specific grounds? Each STAR Invalidation is different. Between short term measures, FPR, no technician present in the machine, not having a BAR97 machine, Incorrect Gear, ASM Restarts and Aborts, Monitors, Deviations for EGR, Timing, Similar Vehicle Fail Rate, etc., each STAR appeal requires a unique and specialized plan of attack.
How do I make sure my appeal is received?
Make sure you Fax and mail the appeal with what is called a Proof of Service. Make sure you get a fax confirmation to the Bureau of Automotive Repair. They have one Fax machine for STAR appeals and it gets busy sometimes. Trust us on this.
The Fax number is 1 (888) 421-7798. Make sure you include the “1” when you fax.
I already had a previous STAR Invalidation for the same issue(s). Do I need to appeal this again?
Yes. The main indicator of whether you need to appeal what may be a new STAR Invalidation is the STAR Invalidation number. Right now they are in the 170XXX. If the number is different that the previous STAR Invalidations, it is a new Invalidation that you need to appeal.
Do I need an Attorney for my STAR Invalidation?
I’m not going to tell you that it’s impossible to do your own STAR appeal. There are codes, statues, and regulations you can review. Start here:
Title 16 – Division 33 – Chapter 1 – Article 10 – §3391.6.1 STAR Program Hearing and Determination.
If you would rather have someone else handle the problem, hire someone. It doesn’t have to be us. We have plenty of work. It can be any Attorney that specializes in Bureua of Automotive Repair matters. Anyone that has experience in STAR cases. The main reason for having an Attorney that specializes in these cases is the nuances in defending these actions.
For instance, the STAR Invalidation may list several grounds for Invalidation. Generally, the letters for Short Term Measures list multiple causes for discipline, but the STAR page shows say only Aborts and ASM restarts. Knowing what causes those deviations and how to fix those issues is something we have extensive experience with. In a lot of those cases we find loose dyno belts on the BAR97, RPM probe not functioning, the scale being off so it loads the dyno wrong, etc. We usually get these cases dismissed at the informal level.
What are some of the benefits to having an Attorney handle the case?
The benefit to having someone else handle these cases is once your Attorney notifies the Bureau of Automotive Repair of Representation, you go back to work and the STAR Invalidation is now your Attorney’s problem. They should handle the case from there. One benefit we provide our clients is that we notify the Bureau of Automotive Repair that we will be handling all STAR Invalidations. This includes future STAR Invalidations. The problem with these Invalidations is that they are deadline specific and deadline sensitive. Missing one deadline mean STAR Shut off – something that most Smog Stations cannot afford.
We are legal experts in Bureau of Automotive Repair matters. We specialize in Bureau of Automotive Repair cases only (Save for one DMV license case). You specialize in running a Test Only/Test and Repair Facility. You go back to your job and we do ours.
How many levels of appeals are there?
There is an informal appeal level. This is done through the Bureau of Automotive Repair. There is a secondary appeal process called the Formal Administrative Appeal. The case is forwarded to the Department of Justice Licensing Section (Attorney General’s Office) for a hearing at the Office of Administrative Hearings. Usually hearings are held in Sacramento, Oakland, Los Angeles, or San Diego.
Do I have to appeal each at each level?
Yes. If you miss an appeal or a deadline, STAR will be shut off. You need to watch for each letter from the Bureau of Automotive Repair regarding each case and make sure you appeal each case. We’ve had quarters where clients received 3-4 separate STAR Invalidations. You need to make sure each one is appealed at every level.
I received a notice that a technician in my employ has an FPR Score that is below 0.40, 0.10, a no score technician with a Test Only or Test and Repair Station FPR score below 0.40, etc.; I have removed the technician, do I need to appeal the STAR Invalidation?
Yes. This is a common misconception. Simply removing the technician will not result in the Bureau of Automotive Repair dropping the case. Please appeal the STAR Invalidation even if you decide to remove the technician. Make sure and send proof to the BAR.
The Bureau of Automotive Repair said they did not receive my appeal of the STAR Invalidation. Is there an appeal option?
Yes. There are several appeal options. Explaining them is a little more difficult in a Question and Answer Session. There is the Petition for Reconsideration and an appeal for Writ of Administrative Mandamus to Superior Court. Most of the appeal options are treating what the Bureau of Automotive Repair calls a “STAR Certificate” as a License to Perform Emission Testing on Directed Vehicles (STAR Directed) and therefore is a license and needs to be treated as such. This includes default situations (where an appeal is not filed) and a revocation of the STAR license/certificate without a hearing.
My Tech/Station/Employee FPR score dropped this quarter, what do I do? How can I fix my station/technician/employee FPR score? How is it even calculated?
I wish I had an answer for you. I don’t. If you call the STAR help desk, they don’t know. They act like they know, they give advice like they know, but to be honest, they are reading from a script because they don’t know how FPR is calculated.
The FPR score is calculated by comparing your data to other stations/technicians. The FPR score algorithm is a closely guarded secret that has not been disclosed to the public. It’s also another reason not one single one of our clients have lost their STAR due to an FPR score.
Generally speaking, the Bureau of Automotive Repair maintains statistical data on failure rates of year, makes, and models of vehicles. They also keep your technician or station data.
The theory goes if you tested 10 1996 Honda Civics in 2015 and they all passed, then all of them failed in 2017 at a higher rate compared to other technicians/facilities (let’s say the average shop/tech 7 out of 10 passed two years later) the Bureau of Automotive Repair assumes that the tests you performed in 2015 were shall we say “suspect.” Your FPR would be dinged because the odds of all 10 passing then all 10 failing two years later is slim to none (in the BAR’s eyes).
Essentially the Bureau of Automotive Repair is arguing you missed a visual or didn’t perform the LPFET or other functional test and therefore, all 10 shouldn’t have passed if all 10 of them failed two years later.
It’s a nonsense argument, but it’s the current status of the STAR Program until the courts say otherwise.
What are my options if an FPR score is causing STAR Invalidation Notices to be sent?
Appeal. Appeal all Invalidations. It’s a pain, but it is a necessary pain.
Should I remove the technician with the bad FPR score? Will that fix my problem?
The current landscape for hiring technicians is shall we say difficult. There is lack of supply of technicians with good FPR scores. If you remove a technician, the chances of you finding a good technician diminish. Plus, who is to say the new technician you hire with a good FPR score doesn’t have a problem next quarter?
We usually suggest a joint effort between the technician and facility. By appealing the STAR Invalidation together, which you have to do anyway, you get a loyal employee who knows it will be difficult for him to find another job with a low FPR score. As the technician, if you agree to assist with the cost of the STAR appeal, this usually is a win win for both parties and prevents the notion that the boss doesn’t want to deal with you anymore.
Finally, if you are a technician with a low FPR score, you may find it difficult to find employment if your FPR score is low. Since we’ve never lost one of our clients STAR Certification for FPR score, you can do the following: Apply for the position at a facility. If the STAR issue is a concern, let the owner know you will cover the cost of the STAR appeal. Inform them of the above – we have never lost a clients STAR Certification due to an FPR score, technician, facility, or otherwise.
This may be the foothold you need to get in the door, prove your merit as a technician, and ensure the facilities STAR Certification is not impacted.
Due to high demand, we request copies of the STAR Invalidation, Accusation, Citation Paperwork, Bureau of Automotive Repair case filings, letters from District Attorneys or City Attorney’s faxed to (415) 366-8429 or emailed to email@example.com before the consultation to ensure we understand your case. You can also take pictures of the paperwork and text them to my cell phone at (415) 412-0472.