As a licensed vehicle dealer in Pennsylvania, your career and your business hinge upon your license. The state holds you to strict standards of ethical and professional excellence in your chosen profession, and you work hard to maintain those standards. That's why it can be so unnerving and devastating to find out that the State Board of Vehicle Manufacturers, Dealers, and Salespersons is investigating a complaint against you.
When allegations of misconduct or state violations arise, you need to know what's at stake. Based only on a preponderance of the evidence, the licensing board has the authority to fine you, suspend, or even revoke your license. The best way to minimize the damage to your career is to enlist the help of an experienced Pennsylvania professional license defense attorney. Attorney Joseph D. Lento and his licensed defense team are highly experienced with matters such as these, and they will strive to secure a positive outcome for you. Contact the Lento Law Firm today at 888-535-3686 to discuss your case.
What Types of Allegations Could Endanger Your Vehicle Dealer's License?
In most cases, vehicle dealers can lose their licensure over alleged violations of state regulations or codes of conduct or other violations of public trust. Examples include, but are not limited to:
- Fraudulent activity. From deceptive advertising to overcharging customers, VIN number alterations, and odometer tampering, this general category includes all unethical techniques used in an attempt to trick the public or deceive your state's motor vehicle commission.
- Failure to conduct your dealership according to state regulations. Examples include violations of Pennsylvania rules regarding when and where you can sell, signage displays, certifications, and so on
- Failing to keep records or ledgers at the licensed location. State inspectors can arrive at any moment to examine your business's financials. If you don't store accurate records on-site or if the documentation is dubious, this could result in disciplinary action being taken against you and your organization.
- Unlawful use of dealer plates. Violating the privilege of using dealer plates—such as for commercial or for-hire vehicles—could result in having your license revoked.
- Certain criminal convictions. If you have a criminal record due to fraud, theft, automobile-related offenses, or serious felonies, you may be disqualified from holding a vehicle dealer license in Pennsylvania.
How the Disciplinary Process Works
The Commonwealth of Pennsylvania has implemented an efficient and organized method for people to submit grievances against any licensed professional, including vehicle dealers. The Bureau of Professional and Occupational Affairs (BPOA) is responsible for processing and investigating these complaints. When a complaint is lodged against you, it will go through several steps before reaching a conclusion.
When the BPOA receives a complaint, they will assign an investigator from their Bureau of Enforcement and Investigation (BEI) to collect evidence that substantiates it. This may entail interviewing relevant parties or witnesses, demanding pertinent documents with subpoenas, and requesting you submit a written statement. If the BEI investigator discovers insubstantial proof for your claim, the Board may consider the matter closed at this point.
If the evidence does suggest you are liable for a violation of state regulations or another law, you may be offered the option to enter into a consent agreement with the Board. A consent agreement is a binding agreement with the state in which you submit to whatever disciplinary measures are specified in the agreement. Although signing a consent agreement isn't always the most desirable situation, if disciplinary action is unavoidable, it may be your best course of action to avoid further career damage and penalties. An experienced license attorney can often negotiate for lenient terms in the consent agreement, such as allowing you to keep your vehicle dealer license or including stipulations for having the license reinstated.
If the complaint is not resolved by lack of evidence or through a consent agreement, the next step is to summon you to a formal hearing in front of a state examiner to show cause why your license should not be revoked. It's in your best interests to have an attorney represent you at this hearing for the best chance of minimized penalties or dismissal of the complaint. When the hearing concludes, the Board will make a final determination as to your guilt or innocence and decide on appropriate disciplinary actions, which can range from reprimands and fines to a full revocation of your license.
Why Hire a Pennsylvania License Defense Attorney
The job of state licensing boards is to protect public interest. They have broad authority to impose disciplinary actions on licensees, and they have a low burden of proof to decide on your guilt. That's why if your vehicle dealer license is under investigation, it's essential to the survival of your business that you enlist the help of an experienced license defense attorney. A good attorney can represent you throughout the entire process and provide crucial assistance that could potentially save your career. Your lawyer will be knowledgeable about Pennsylvania regulations and laws related to vehicle dealerships as well as the formal disciplinary process. They can provide you with legal advice and representation at hearings, negotiate on your behalf for favorable terms in a consent agreement, and work to protect your rights throughout the investigation and determination phases. In many cases, a good attorney can negotiate a favorable resolution before the matter ever gets to a formal hearing. In short, you have a much better chance of keeping your vehicle dealer license with the right attorney defending your interests.
You've worked too hard to build your career to have it derailed by allegations of misconduct or violations. Let Attorney Joseph D. Lento and his legal team work on your behalf to get a favorable resolution and save your career. Contact the Lento Law Firm at (888) 535-3686 to schedule a consultation.