The California Department of Motor Vehicles is empowered by the State Legislature to ensure that all persons driving in the State of California maintain the physical capacity to safely operate a motor vehicle. If the DMV learns from any source that a person’s physical health is in question, the department can either order a Re-Examination or can move directly to suspension.
The Driver Receives a Notice:
- Notice of Priority Re-Examination: In almost all cases, the “Notice of Priority Re-Examination” is hand-delivered to a driver by a Law Enforcement Officer. Police Officers are specifically trained to recognize and identify possible signs and symptoms of a person with a physical health disorder that can affect driving. So if an officer has stopped a driver for a moving violation or is investigating a traffic accident and determines that person may have some physical health issue affecting their driving, they will issue a Notice of Priority Re-Examination.
If a law enforcement officer issues a “Notice of Priority Re-Examination” to a driver, it is because the officer believes the person’s physical health condition is so severe as to constitute a possible hazard to the motoring public. Because of the sense of urgency, the law requires that the affected driver initiate contact with the local Driver Safety Office within 5 calendar days of the police contact. Failure to contact the DMV within the required 5 days will result in the immediate suspension of the driving privilege.
If a driver telephones the Driver Safety Office, the department will make every effort to schedule an appointment that day or the next business day. If the driver walks into the Driver Safety Office, the office must do all they can to conduct an interview that day.
- Notice of Regular Re-Examination: If the information received by the DMV is vague or if the reviewing DMV employee determines there is no immediate danger to the public, the department will issue a “Notice of Re-Examination,” by mail. The DMV’s Re-Examination process is essentially the department’s opportunity to investigate the affected driver’s physical health while permitting the driver to continue driving.
The law requires that any driver ordered into a “Re-Examination Appointment” must be given 10-days advance notice of the appointment. If the affected driver fails to appear for the scheduled “Re-Examination” the department will act to immediately suspend the driver license and will hold the license in suspension until the driver participates in a re-examination.
- Driver License Suspension: If the original information received by the DMV is from a physician or suggests that the person’s continued driving constitutes a clear and present danger to the public, the DMV will send an Order of Suspension/Revocation to the driver by US Mail. This happens most often in cases involving a “Lapse of Consciousness.” The order will indicate the reason for the suspension action and the effective date of the suspension. On that date, the driver must terminate driving until further notice. The notice will also advise the driver of their right to request an Administrative Hearing to contest the suspension, however the driver only has 14 days from the date the order was signed to request a hearing.
What Happens at a Re-Examination Appointment for a Physical Health Disorder
Whether the driver is set for a “Priority Re-Examination” or a “Regular Re-Examination” the process is essentially the same. The Re-Examination is a process designed to allow a hearing officer the ability to evaluate the person’s knowledge, skill and Physical ability to safely drive. The most common Mental Health Disorders that come under the DMV’s scrutiny are:
- Diabetes…. Episodes of Hypo or Hyper Glycemia
- Sleep Apnea
- Epilepsy or Seizure Disorders
- Any Lapse of Consciousness or Control
- Parkinson’s Disease or Essential Tremors
- Alzheimer’s Disease or Dementia
- Any physical condition causing cognitive impairment or decline
- Cardiac problems
- Breathing problems
- Vision problems
- The habitual use of pain killers, muscle relaxers or psychotropic drugs
The Re-Examination process is generally comprised of 5 potential steps. The assigned hearing officer has great discretion in deciding how many of these steps a driver must endure, but it is a good rule of thumb to be prepared for all five:
- Written Test: This is an 18-question, multiple-choice written test designed to measure a person’s knowledge of the laws regarding driving. During the written test, a driver is permitted to miss up to 3 questions to achieve a passing score.
- Vision Test: This is normally a simply task of reading letters off of a wall chart or electronic hood. You are permitted to wear corrective lenses during the vision test.
- Medical Reports: In many instances, the Hearing Officer will require that a driver file medical reports prepared by the physicians who know them best. Known as a Driver Medical Evaluation, these 5-page documents are the DMV’s primary source of medical information.
- Driving Test: Known at the Supplement Driver Performance Evaluation (SDPE), this is a “behind the wheel” practical driving test. The assigned Hearing Officer will schedule the affected driver to appear at a local DMV Field Office to meet with an Examiner and perform the drive test. The results of the drive test are then reported back to the Hearing Officer for his or her consideration in the Re-Examination Process.
- Interview: Of all the 5 potential steps available in a Re-Examination for Mental Health disorders, this one step is the one that is virtually assured to occur. The interview occurs in the private office of a DMV Hearing Officer. This person will interview the driver in extreme detail regarding their medical history, their mental history, the use of prescription medications, the use of drugs, the use of alcohol and virtually any other topic the hearing officer deems to be relevant in evaluating the person’s fitness to drive.
What are the Possible Results at a Re-Examination for a Physical Health Disorder
When a DMV Re-Examination for a Physical Health Disorder concludes, the hearing officer is mandated to review all medical evidence, all documentary evidence, all testimonial evidence and the results of all testing to determine if the affected driver possesses the skill, the knowledge and the physical ability to safely drive. Once the Hearing Officer has reached a decision, he or she will then announce the outcome in a written notice that is then mailed to the driver.
The possible results are:
- Order of Suspension/Revocation: If the hearing officer concludes that all available evidence suggests the driver’s physical health condition or disorder is not controlled or that they are unsafe to drive for any reason, the hearing officer will order that the person’s driving privilege be suspended or revoked. If this happens, the affected driver then is given an opportunity to conduct a full-blow evidentiary hearing to reverse the decision. If the driver elects to step up to the full hearing, it is often advisable to seek the representation of an Administrative Advocate. Administrative Advocates are highly trained and extensive experience in the preparation and handling of such cases before the DMV. While a driver is permitted to represent themselves at such a hearing, Representation by an Administrative Advocate can greatly increase the likelihood of victory.
- Order of “No Action”: In this decision, the hearing officer concludes that the driver’s physical health disorder or condition is well controlled and that there is no reason to take further action. This essentially ends the investigation and the person’s driving privilege remains intact.
- Order of “Medical Probation:” In this decision, the hearing officer concludes that the driver’s physical health disorder appears to be sufficiently stable, but there is some possibility of relapse or deterioration and feels that monitoring of the condition is necessary. Here, the driver license is not suspended but, the driver must file periodic medical reports with the DMV to establish that they remain stable.