Florida Automotive Mechanic Contractor Defense Lawyer

Have you been alerted of a Complaint filed against you with the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services (FDACS) for automobile repair fraud? Are you worried about the effect that the complaint will have on your professional reputation and future livelihood as a qualified mechanic? A complaint filed against an automotive mechanic for violating the Florida Motor Vehicle Repair Act can have damaging consequences, including civil fines, a restriction of services, and harm to your professional reputation.

No matter how groundless the complaint might seem, your future career and reputation depend on resolving the complaint immediately. After receiving word of a complaint filed against you for auto repair fraud, contact an experienced administrative attorney to protect your future livelihood as a reputable Florida automotive mechanic contractor.

What Responsibilities do Florida Automotive Mechanic Contractors Have?

Every consumer who owns a vehicle in Florida will need repairs and maintenance. Automotive mechanics are responsible for inspecting and testing vehicles to ensure they’re safe for road use. Their responsibilities frequently include preventive maintenance such as oil changes, engine tune-ups, and tire rotations, that consumers depend on to stay safe on the road.

According to Florida Statute 559.903(8), motor vehicle repair includes:

“…All maintenance of and modifications and repairs to motor vehicles, and diagnostic work incident thereto, including, but not limited to, the rebuilding or restoring of rebuilt vehicles, body work, painting, warranty work, and other work customarily undertaken by motor vehicle repair shops.”

Why Is It Important for Automobile Mechanics and Repair Shops to be Certified in Florida?

In Florida, automobile mechanics are not required to hold a license to service vehicles individually. However, those that have specific training with a qualified trade school, or an Automotive Service Excellence (ASE) certification enjoy considerably better career opportunities. The ASE is the national standard of automotive technician expertise that consumers can trust for quality work.

Florida automotive repair shops must be licensed and registered with the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services (FDACS). Any repair shop that’s not registered can face complaints and ultimately be shut down by the State of Florida.

Who Licenses Automotive Mechanic Contractors in Florida?

Automotive mechanic contractors can be certified with the ASE certification to become a master mechanic and receive recognition for their auto expertise. Automotive repair shops must register and maintain a valid license with the FDACS. To maintain licensure, auto repair shops must abide by the Florida Motor Vehicle Repair Act enacted to protect consumers from negligent repairs and maintenance on their vehicles.

Could Complaints Against Automotive Mechanics or Motor Vehicle Repair Shop Result in Disciplinary Action?

One of the most highly ranked consumer complaints in the country relates to fraudulent auto repairs and rip-offs. Vehicle-owning consumers must keep their cars in working order and avoid common pitfalls by trusting unlicensed repair shops. To prevent automobile repair fraud, automotive mechanics and shops must abide by the Florida Motor Vehicle Repair Act that requires mechanics to:

  • Provide estimates of any vehicle repair that exceeds $100
  • Provide the option of a written estimate
  • Notify consumers if repairs will exceed the estimated amount by $10 or 10%, not to exceed $50
  • Never force consumers to waive their rights to a written estimate
  • Allow consumers to cancel repairs without penalty if the cost of repairs is too high
  • If repairs are canceled, an auto mechanic may charge the cost of teardown or reassembly to the vehicle, provided that they notify consumers of these potential costs in the estimate
  • Provide documentation of what work was done after the work is complete

Any violation of these rules set by the Florida Motor Vehicle Repair Act is considered automobile repair fraud and can lead to a complaint with the FDAS.

How Would Someone File a Complaint Against an Automotive Mechanic in Florida?

If an automotive mechanic commits repair fraud or performs services at a repair shop that’s not licensed, a consumer can contact the FDACS and complete a Motor Vehicle Repair Consumer Complaint Form. The FDACS’s online service allows the public to verify that a repair shop is licensed to service vehicles. Consumers may also file an additional complaint online with the Attorney General’s Office.

How Does the Complaint Process Operate in Florida?

After the FDACS is notified of a complaint against an automotive repair shop for repair fraud or violating the Florida Motor Vehicle Repair Act, the claim is reviewed by an investigator who will assess the case. The investigation includes gathering information to establish whether the complaint has sufficient legal grounds to move forward in the complaint process.

The investigation generally includes:

  • Interviews with complainants
  • Interviews with the subject of the complaint
  • Interviews with witnesses
  • Issuing subpoenas
  • Recording sworn statements
  • Gathering detailed evidence
  • Preparing reports

As a certified Florida automotive mechanic or repair shop owner, it’s strongly recommended that you obtain a skilled and qualified administrative law attorney as soon as possible to help you respond appropriately to the investigation. An experienced attorney can often end the investigation before it becomes available to the public. At this point, you have the best chance of saving your reputation and business from further damage.

The Probable Cause Panel Assess the Complaint

Suppose the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services (FDACS) investigation secures sufficient evidence to move the complaint forward. In that case, it will be reviewed by a Probable Cause Panel, which considers details and evidence linked to the complaint along with rules or regulations that were violated.

During this process, it is imperative that you seek counsel from an experienced administrative law attorney and not try to resolve it on your own.

The panel review could lead to three possible outcomes:

  • Finding no probable cause: a dismissal of the case
  • Issuing a letter of guidance: a determination that a minor violation did occur
  • Issuing a formal Administrative Complaint: the most severe of outcomes

A determination of “no probable cause” means there was insufficient evidence to confirm that auto repair fraud was committed. A “letter of guidance” is not a disciplinary action but can still harm your professional reputation. If a formal Administrative Complaint is issued against you, the Administrative Complaint process will proceed to the next step.

What’s the Process of an Administrative Complaint?

An Administrative Complaint defines the evidence and information found during the investigation and the specific laws or regulations that were violated. At this time, the complaint becomes public record. Even if the claim is thrown out, your reputation as a qualified mechanic or automotive repair shop could be damaged. After consulting with your lawyer, you can decide whether you want to attend an Informal Hearing or Formal Hearing.

Informal Hearing

If you choose to continue with an Informal Hearing, you do not intend to argue with any of the allegations against you, nor do you want to reveal any new evidence. Instead, you’re accepting the complaints, and the FDACS will make a definitive decision on penalties that will be imposed against you.

Formal Hearing

If you wish to debate the charges and evidence found against you during the investigation, you move forward to a Formal Hearing. This hearing is before Florida’s Division of Administrative Hearings (DOAH) and is overseen by an Administrative Law Judge (ALJ). The ALJ considers the evidence from both sides and makes a final Recommended Order to the FDACS. The Department then makes a final decision on what disciplinary actions to follow.

Remember that you can appeal the decision by filing a petition for judicial review if your auto repair shop license is suspended or revoked. Your lawyer is your most valued advocate and a crucial part of your defense team when going through this process – always consult with them before making a final decision.

How Can a Professional License Defense Attorney Assist?

At The Umansky Law Firm, our professional license defense team investigates every case in considerable detail to uncover the facts and determine the best approach to proceed. In some cases, complaints against automotive mechanic contractors and repair shops can go to criminal court and be criminalized. Having an experienced criminal defense attorney with experience in professional license defense is crucial.

The Umansky Law Firm administrative law attorneys can assist you in some of the following ways:

  • Review the complaint against you and build a defense by obtaining evidence, documents, and witnesses that will help you
  • Prevent you from incriminating yourself as you defend against the claims
  • Defend against possible criminal charges that may develop from the complaint
  • Determine the motive or bias behind the consumer who made the complaint
  • Help you respond appropriately to the Probable Cause Investigation by procuring documents, witnesses, and other methods to establish there is no probable cause for the complaint
  • Help to try and get the complaint dismissed by the Probable Cause Panel
  • Argue that a guidance letter is better than a prosecution
  • Mitigate any potential penalties the FDACS may want to take
  • Introduce evidence, witnesses, and cross-examine witnesses at a Formal Review Hearing
  • Help dispute the findings at an Informal Review Hearing
  • Appeal the hearing

Contact Orlando Professional License Defense Attorneys for a Free Consultation

If you have been alleged of committing auto repair fraud where the FDACS may revoke or suspend your automotive repair shop’s license or business activities, contact The Umansky Law Firm to defend you. As skilled trial attorneys, we can help you build a strong defense against the charges you face, including dismissal of the complaint. Because we have a criminal defense background that involves government agencies, fraud, and other crimes, we are prepared to defend you in the administrative action and help you avoid license suspension and criminal liability.

Attorneys at The Umansky Law Firm include defense lawyers, former prosecutors, and some have experience working directly for the Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services. To speak with an administrative attorney today about your Florida pest control license, complete an online contact form or call at (407) 228-3838.