The auto repair business in California can be very competitive. Many companies work hard to stay ahead. However, there are legal limits on the actions companies can take to draw in customers and build their business.
California Penal Code Section 551: Unlawful Referral to an Auto Repair Dealer is used to prosecute auto repair companies or employees who unlawfully try to generate referrals. The Simmrin Law Group can help you learn more about this charge and the results of a conviction right here.
Unlawful Referral to an Auto Repair Dealer: Definition
Unlawful referral to an auto repair dealer is defined under PC 551. According to this legal code, auto repair dealers or employees can face criminal charges for:
- Offering a Fee or Commission to an Insurance Agent For
- Referring Insured Drivers for Vehicle Repairs
PC 551 charges can also apply if an auto repair dealer or an employee directly offers customers a discount designed to offset their insurance policy’s deductible.
Unlawful Referral to an Auto Repair Dealer: Examples
Strengthen your understanding of unlawful referral to an auto repair dealer charges by considering the following examples:
Man A runs an auto repair store that is losing money regularly. He decides to secure additional referrals by approaching local insurance agents and offering them money for each client they refer. He could be charged under PC 551, leading to fines and other penalties in Los Angeles.
Man B owns an auto repair store. Several of his customers turn down repairs because they say that their auto insurance deductible is too high. He offers them a discount designed to offset the insurance deductible, and they decide to let him repair their vehicles. His actions could lead to PC 551 charges in California.
Unlawful Referral to an Auto Repair Dealer: Similar Charges
California’s court system contains a number of charges that resemble unlawful referral to an auto repair dealer. These charges can include:
- California Penal Code Section 548: Auto Insurance Fraud.
- California Penal Code Section 641.3: Commercial Bribery.
- California Vehicle Code Section 10501: Filing a False Auto Theft Report.
These charges can result in fines and time spent behind bars in the state of California. All accusations for fraud or bribery should be taken very seriously by individuals in California.
Unlawful Referral to an Auto Repair Dealer: Penalties
PC 551 charges can be treated differently depending upon the amount of money involved in the unlawful referral to an auto repair dealer. Let’s go over the variations on this charge:
PC 551 Charges Involving Under $950
A PC 551 accusation involving less than $950 is always treated as a misdemeanor in California. The penalties for this charge can include:
- Fines of Up to $1,000.
- Jail Time of Up to Six Months.
PC 551 Charges Involving Over $950
Individuals accused of unlawful referral to an auto repair dealer involving more than $950 may face misdemeanor or felony charges in California’s court system. The results of a conviction for this type of PC 551 violation may be:
- Fines of Up to $10,000.
- Jail Time of Up to Three Years.
Unlawful Referral to an Auto Repair Dealer: Defenses
You have legal options if you are accused of an unlawful referral to an auto repair dealer. A criminal defense lawyer in Los Angeles can get to work building your case right away. Your lawyer can go over your legal options and may defend you by arguing that:
You Only Provided an Insurance Agent with a Gift
PC 551 charges can be used to prosecute individuals who offer fees or commissions to insurance agents in return for commissions. If you are on friendly terms with insurance agents and send them reasonable presents – such as a gift at Christmas – you could avoid a PC 551 conviction.
You Didn’t Intend to Offset a Customer’s Deductible
Many auto repair dealers offer discounts to their customers for a variety of reasons. You could offer a discount for customer loyalty or as part of a special to generate new business. If you weren’t trying to offset a customer’s insurance deductible, PC 551 charges should not apply in your case.
Get Legal Help with Unlawful Referral to an Auto Repair Dealer Charges
California Penal Code Section 551: Unlawful Referral to an Auto Repair Dealer charges can lead to fines and jail time. Take these charges seriously by contacting the Simmrin Law Group. Our criminal defense lawyers can offer you a FREE initial case evaluation today.
Call us at 310-997-4688 or complete our online contact form to go over your legal options.