The California Bureau of Automotive Repair‘s “STAR” certification program began on January 1, 2013, replacing what was previously called the “Gold Shield” Program. STAR certification is the Bureau’s voluntary certification program that applies to a registered Automotive Repair Dealer that is also a licensed smog check test-and-repair station or a test-only station that meets specific requirements.
To become STAR-certified, a licensee must apply for certification and meet the inspection-based performance standards. STAR certification of a smog station gives that station the exclusive authority to inspect particular vehicles called “directed” and “gross polluting” vehicles; non-STAR-certified licensees cannot perform these types of inspections. For most of Automotive Repair Dealers, this is a very valuable certification. However, the Bureau can easily invalidate STAR certification of a smog check station. Reasons for invalidation include a citation issued against the STAR station, manager, or any licensed technician employed by the station, for a violation of Health and Safety Code sections 44012 or 44032. If this happens, the licensee must wait one year to reapply for STAR certification.
Will a Repair Shop Be Automatically Revoked from STAR if the Bureau Issues a Citation?
No. Invalidating your STAR certification is a two-step process. First, the Bureau must issue a citation. A repair shop has the right to appeal that citation. The second stage after the citation is final and non-appealable, is a separate administrative proceeding brought by the Bureau to invalidate STAR certification. Therefore, if the Bureau finds cause to invalidate a licensee’s STAR certification, the Bureau must file and serve a notice to the licensee; the notice must contain a summary of the facts and allegations, which form the cause for invalidation (i.e., a final, non-appealable citation). If the licensee timely sends the Bureau a request for a hearing, the Bureau must hold a hearing within ten (10) days of receipt of the request. The Bureau then notifies the licensee of the time and place of the hearing. The licensee must be notified of the determination by the Bureau Chief, or his designee, who must issue a decision and notify the licensee within ten days of the close of the hearing. If the licensee is not satisfied with the Chief’s decision and wants to contest it, the licensee must then request an administrative hearing under the Administrative Procedure Act (see Gov. Code, § 11500 et seq.). This must take place within thirty (30) days of the Chief’s decision.5 Thus, there are two separate administrative proceedings: one to challenge the citation itself (Bus. & Prof. Code, § 125.9; Health & Saf. Code, § 44050, subd. (d)), and another to challenge the invalidation of a station’s STAR certification.
Should a Repair Shop Contest a Citation if it Will Have a Separate Hearing Anyway to Challenge the Invalidation of STAR?
YES. If you did not challenge the citation, the Bureau would have the jurisdiction to exclude you from STAR by virtue of the citation itself.6 You cannot later argue the legal or factual basis of the citation at a subsequent STAR appeal hearing. Rather, your opportunity to do so lies within your appeal of the citation. If you chose not to exercise those rights, you would not later have the right to attack the citation. The citation would be conclusive evidence the Bureau may revoke your STAR participation rights. So if you do not appeal the citation, you enter the STAR appeal hearing having admitted all of the wrongdoing in the citation. Accordingly, there is little way to prevail at a secondary STAR hearing by not fighting the citation.