When any person operates a motor vehicle in the State of California, they are subject to the laws and regulations identified in the California Vehicle Code. This means that all drivers are also subject to the oversight and review of the California Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV).
The DMV is empowered by the California State Legislature to issue, suspend or revoke the driving privilege of any person in the state. Few people realize just how much power the DMV possesses to affect a person’s privilege to drive.
A common area of concern for the DMV is when events or information become apparent that suggest a driver is a Negligent Operator. A Negligent Operator issue may arise with the DMV if any of the following events were to occur:
In almost every instance, the affected driver will learn that the DMV has labeled them as a Negligent Operator when they receive a notice by US Mail. Many times a driver has no clue that they have come under DMV scrutiny until they receive the notice. Most often, the notice will be entitled:
Once such a notice is received the driver must act quickly to protect themselves otherwise the suspension or revocation of the driver license will automatically go into effect.
The stated mission of the California Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) is to ensure the safety of the motoring public. In drafting the Vehicle Code, the California State Legislature empowered the DMV to investigate any issue that may affect public safety and to take an immediate suspension action if it is warranted. If the DMV determines that any driver is negligent or incompetent in their driving, the department will act immediately to take that person off the road.
California Vehicle Code Section 12809 (e)…. Determines that the DMV….”may refuse to issue or renew a driver license of any person, if the department determines that the applicant is the negligent or incompetent operator of a motor vehicle.”
California Vehicle Code Section 13359…. Determines that the DMV “may suspend or revoke the privilege of any person to operate a motor vehicle upon any grounds which authorize the refusal to issue a license.”
California Vehicle Code Section 13369 (c)(2)…. Determines that the DMV “may refuse to issue or renew, or may suspend or revoke, the privilege operate a motor vehicle of any person who within 24 months, as a driver, caused or contributed to an accident resulting in a fatality or serious injury or serious property damage.”
If the DMV initiates an action to suspend or revoke a person’s driver license for being a Negligent Operator, the law requires that person be given an opportunity to defend themselves. The driver is permitted to schedule and conduct an administrative hearing before the Driver Safety Office near their home to rebut the DMV’s suspicion and to demonstrate that they are not a Negligent Operator, or that they can be trusted to modify their driving behavior to be a safer driver.
Known as a Negligent Operator Hearing, this administrative hearing is run much like a mini-trial. The driver is permitted to present evidence and witnesses and is further permitted to attack the evidence against them. The driver may also introduce evidence that a term of driving probation may be more appropriate than a flat out suspension.
It is important to note that if the affected driver chooses to defend themselves, there is a specific requirement that he or she contact the Driver Safety Office to request a Negligent Operator Hearing in a specified period of time. Failure to contact the Driver Safety Office within 14 days is a forfeiture of the right to hearing and virtually assures that the suspension or revocation will go into effect. Don’t let the DMV suspend or revoke your driver license without a fight.
If conducted correctly, a Negligent Operator Hearing is a full-blown evidentiary hearing that operates very much like a mini trial. Especially in cases involving fatal or serious injuries; or in road rage cases, evidence is introduced and objections are made. Witnesses and experts may testify and legal arguments are heard. To prevail at such a hearing requires that a person have a working knowledge of the California Vehicle Code, the California Evidence Code, the California Code of Civil Procedures, the Administrative Procedures Act and basic DMV policy. Because few drivers in California possess this level of training and experience, and because the DMV will not assist a person in preparing for their hearing, this can be a frustrating and overwhelming experience. Fortunately, drivers are permitted to be represented by specially trained DMV Defense Experts known as Administrative Advocates. Administrative Advocates work daily with the DMV and handle a variety of administrative hearings including the Negligent Operator Hearing. A highly trained and experienced Administrative Advocate will have insight into the inner workings of the DMV and will have established relationships with DMV staff that can truly benefit the affected driver.
The law makes it perfectly clear that a driver is permitted to represent themselves so they need not go to any expense in hiring a representative. You are permitted to request your own hearing and to act as your own representative. If you would prefer to be represented however, DMV Administrative Advocates can assist you in fighting to protect your driving privilege. You can also learn more and study a complete overview of the Negligent Operator Hearing process.