STAR Suspension (STAR Invalidation) by the Bureau of Automotive Repair – 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. Note that as of April 2022, the Bureau of Automotive Repair has requested an amendment that would rename these as “STAR Suspensions” vs. the previous terminology of “STAR Invalidation”. Regardless of what they call it, a STAR invalidation / STAR suspension is a direct threat to your California-based SMOG business.
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. You can watch a quick video by attorney William Ferreira at https://youtu.be/ziD4jC7aqfw. Alternatively, we have put together this Question and Answer Series to answer some commonly answered questions about California’s STAR Program:
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. Call us, we’ll take care of it.
Will my appeal be received?
Yes. We fax confirmation and email with a Proof of Service. We’ve never missed one.
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 than the previous STAR Invalidations, it is a new Invalidation that you need to appeal.
Do I need an Attorney for my STAR Invalidation?
Yes. If you need some guidance on how complicated these are, 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 Bureau 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.
Why use an Attorney?
The short answer, you go back to work and you let me handle the legal work. 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. We 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. You specialize in running a Test Only/Test and Repair Facility. You go back to your job and we do ours.
How many 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 appeal the Upheld Invalidation?
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.
Remove the Technician?
Removal of the Technician does not stop the STAR Invalidation process. This is a common misconception. Simply removing the technician will not result in the Bureau of Automotive Repair dropping the case. You need to appeal the STAR Invalidation even if you decide to remove the technician. We can handle this for you.
BAR says they didn’t get my appeal?
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.
What is FPR?
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.