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Notice of Decision for California Special Driver Certificate

Notice of Decision on a Special Driver Certificate

What is a Notice of Decision on a Special Driver Certificate?

 Any person who drives a motor vehicle in the State of California must possess a valid Driver License which authorizes them to operate a specific class of vehicle.  For example, an everyday driver who operates a mini-van must possess a Class “C” driver license.  Any person wishing to ride a motorcycle on a public roadway must possess a valid “M1” driver license.  Finally commercial drivers must possess either a Class “A” or Class “B” driver license.

The California Department of Motor Vehicles also recognizes that certain drivers must hold special qualifications to operate specializes vehicles.  Examples are school buses, ambulances and tow trucks.   In addition to particular “classes” of driver license, these drivers must also possess the California Special Certificate in order to operate their specialized vehicles.  These particular drivers are held to the highest standards in terms of their personal and professional conduct.

In the event the DMV suspects the holder of a Special Certificate no longer possesses the highest level of trust, integrity and performance; the department will act to suspend or revoke the Special Certificate which terminates the driver’s privilege to operate specialized vehicles.  Obviously the loss of a Special Certificate will adversely impact the person’s ability to make a living and can be quite devastating.

Anytime the DMV works to suspend or revoke a Special Certificate, the accused driver is permitted to present evidence and information at an Administrative Hearing in an attempt to reverse the intended suspension or revocation of the Certificate.    A driver who conducts such an Administrative Hearing will encounter a “two-stage” process before a final decision is reached:

  • An Administrative Hearing convened before a DMV Hearing Officer at the Driver Safety Office nearest to the driver’s home;
  • A final review by the Certificate Action Review Board (CARB) who reviews the entire case and the Hearing Officer’s proposed decision. The CARB will then render a final decision in the matter.

When the CARB has received and reviewed the entire case, it will document its decision in writing.  The Notice of Decision is the instrument used by the CARB to advise the affected driver of its final decision.  The CARB has the power to order any of the following:

  • Sustain the Action—This means the CARB has concluded good cause exists to revoke the driver’s Special Certificate which effectively withdraws the privilege to operate specialized vehicles.
  • Set Aside the Action—This means the CARB has concluded there is insufficient evidence or cause to revoke the Special Certificate and the action is removed from the driving record.
  • End the Action—This means the CARB has concluded that while the initial revocation of the Special Certificate was justified, there now exists good cause to return the Certificate and allow the driver to continue operating specialized vehicles.
  • Modify the Action—This means the CARB has concluded that while the initial revocation of the Special Certificate was justified, the board had elected to modify the revocation to a suspension and return the Certificate after a specified period of suspension.
  • Remand the case back to the Hearing Officer—This means the CARB has decided it requires more information and is sending the matter back to the assigned Hearing Officer to re-open the matter or conduct further investigation.

Why does the DMV send a Notice of Decision to a driver following a Special Certificate Hearing?

 The California Vehicle Code specifically mandates that the DMV notify an accused driver of the findings made by a Hearing Officer at the conclusion of any Administrative Hearing.  All decisions made by the hearing officer must be conveyed to the accused driver in writing.  Ambulance and Tow Truck drivers are an exception.

California Vehicle Code Section 14105(a) determines……  “Upon the conclusion of a hearing, the hearing officer or hearing board shall make findings and render a decision on behalf of the department and shall notify the person involved.  Notice of the decision shall include a statement of the person’s right to a review.  The decision shall not take effect as stated in the notice, but not less than four nor more than 15 days after the notice is mailed.” 

 The Notice begins with the DMV documenting that the Certificate Action Review Board has reviewed the evidence presented at the previous Special Certificate Hearing.   The Notice then goes on to announce the CARB’s findings.  This is where the board documents the facts which prompted the action against the Certificate.

The Notice will then document the CARB’s decision regarding the outcome of its review.  This is where the accused driver will learn whether or not they have prevailed in their attempt to keep the Special Certificate. Finally, the Notice will document the driver’s right to appeal the decision reached by the CARB.

What does a Notice of Decision mean for me?

 If you have received a Notice of Decision from the Certificate Action Review Board, this means you have concluded an Administrative Hearing and a final decision has been reached by the board.  As stated above, the Notice of Decision is the board’s final ruling in the matter and the case is considered closed. If your decision was unfavorable, you have three options:

  • Simply endure the suspension or revocation ordered by the board. When the suspension/revocation has been satisfied, you can reapply for the issuance of the Special Certificate.  Depending upon the reason the Certificate was withdrawn and the order of the CARB, the suspension/revocation action may range from one month to seven years.
  • File a Request for Administrative Review. This is the first level of appeal where the driver sends the matter to the DMV’s Legal Department and requests that the DMV’s attorneys review the matter to ensure the Board’s decision was lawful.
  • File a Writ of Mandate. This is a full-blown legal appeal where the driver asks a Superior Court Judge to review the matter and make a ruling on the legality of the DMV’s action.
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