Empowering California Drivers

To Maintain Their Driving Privilege

Fatality Hearing at the California DMV

Any time a person gets behind the wheel of a motor vehicle and accepts the responsibility of driving on a public roadway, they accept the obligation of driving in a safe, sane and measured manner intended to prevent tragedies from occurring.  There is no question that driving is a complicated task requiring multiple layers of knowledge, skill and experience.  The inescapable truth is that accidents do occur and all too often traffic accidents result in severe injury or even death.

The California Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) is the government agency empowered to issue driver licenses to qualified persons.  The DMV is also, however, equally empowered to remove a person’s driving privilege if they have demonstrated that they are a Negligent or Incompetent Driver.  There are a number of possible scenarios that can cause the DMV to identify a person as a Negligent OperatorSome of the most common are:

  • An accumulation of too many points for moving violations in a specified period of time.
  • An accumulation of too many points for “at fault” traffic accidents accumulated in a specified period of time.
  • Involvement in an incident of Road Rage or Highway Violence.
  • Causing or contributing to a serious injury traffic accident.
  • Causing or contributing to a fatal traffic accident.

In this chapter, we discuss the DMV’s review of a driver who has been involved in a fatal traffic accident.

If a traffic accident occurs, which results in the death of any person, the DMV will initiate an investigation to determine if any of the involved drivers either caused or contributed to the fatal injury.  This is an incredibly low standard.  An accused driver need not be the primary cause of the accident.  If the accused driver’s actions in some way contributed to a fatal accident, or if they failed to exercise sufficient judgement to avoid the collision, the DMV may identify them as a Negligent Operator and move to remove their driving privilege.

It has long been said that driving in California is a privilege, not a right.  The truth is our courts have repeatedly found that driving is an issue of great practical importance and that once a driver license has been acquired; it becomes a fundamental vested right that requires Procedural Due Process to remove.  So although the original issuance of a driver license is not a right, once it is obtained, a driver has a right to fight any attempt to withdraw it.

If the DMV initiates a suspension or revocation action against a person for their involvement in a fatal traffic accident, he or she will have the opportunity to defend themselves at what is called a Fatality Hearing.  These hearings are run like mini-trials where the accused is permitted to present evidence and witnesses in their defense. These are incredibly complex and overwhelming proceedings that require a great deal of preparation.  Although a driver has an absolute right to defend themselves, the law does permit that they be represented by a specially trained DMV Defense Expert.  Known as Administrative Advocates, these highly trained and experienced professionals understand the DMV hearing process and can make a huge difference in the outcome of a fatality hearing.  Whether you chose to defend yourself or to employ the services of a defense expert, don’t let the DMV steal your driver license without a fight.  Fatality hearings can be won. Learn more about the procedure at Fatality Hearings.

Talk to a DMV Defense Expert