As part of our on-going education of the California SMOG check and STAR program community, we’re publishing some short Q&A on various topics concerning possible Bureau of Automotive Repair issues.
- Remember: every situation is unique, and nothing on our blog or website should be construed as legal advice. Affected parties are urged to consult an attorney!
Q. How does a potential “criminal” action by the Bureau of Automotive Repair usually start against a SMOG station or SMOG Technician?
Generally we see two types of criminal cases – alleged illegal smog check inspections, either by way of clean piping or clean plugging, and alleged fraudulent brake and lamp inspections. We also see cases for false advertising and insurance fraud.
Normally the Bureau of Automotive Repair conducts either surveillance or undercover operations against a target. Other times the Bureau of Automotive Repair will cooperate with insurance companies to find formerly repaired vehicles. Once they feel they have enough evidence to secure a conviction the case is forwarded to the local district attorney’s office for prosecution. The local district attorney’s office decides whether to take the case or not.
Q. If this is initially started with a letter or formal document, how does it work? Is the defendant officially served?
Is he usually arrested on the spot, and taken to jail?
We have seen both. Some jurisdictions send a letter to the accused to arrange a formal arraignment or surrender. Other jurisdictions simply file the case, a warrant is issued, and the individual(s) are picked up by way of arrest.
Q. What is bail typically set to in theses cases? How do you “make bail?”
Typically these are mostly $0 bail cases or ROR – release on your own recognizance. Every so often the district attorney will ask for a nominal amount of bail, ether $5000 or $10000. If there are significant priors, bail may be more. A bail bondsman will be able to help you make bail – it’s what they do.
Q. If I am the owner of a STAR Certified station, am I PERSONALLY at risk in a criminal case? Doesn’t my incorporation
shield me from these problems?
Yes and No. If you are not involved in the alleged conduct, you will not be held criminally liable for your technician’s actions. Civilly, or in the Administrative Arena you can be held liable for the actions of an employee. Criminally, as long as you were not involved in the alleged conduct, i.e., assisting with the alleged clean pipe or clean plug, then no – you will not be held criminally liable.