Empowering California Drivers

To Maintain Their Driving Privilege

Order of Refusal/Suspension/Revocation/Cancellation of a California Special Driver Certificate

What is an Order to Refuse, Suspend, Revoke, or Cancel a California Special Driver Certificate?

The California Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) is the government agency empowered to issue all classes of driver license to qualified drives within the State of California.  The basic classes of driver license are:

  • Class “C” Driver license for the everyday driver.
  • Class “M” Driver license to operate motorcycles.
  • Class “B” Commercial Driver License for driving commercial vehicles not requiring a Class “A” Driver License.
  • Class “A” Commercial Driver license is held by the highest trained drivers and qualifies them to operate all class of vehicle, except motorcycles.

In addition to the particular class of driver license, certain professional drivers must also hold a Special Certificate to professionally operate certain types of specialized motor vehicles.  The most common type of Special Certificates are:

  • School Bus Certificate
  • Ambulance Drivers Certificate
  • Tow Truck Drivers Certificate

Any person who holds one of these Special Certificates is a person who is held to the highest standards, both professionally and personally, because of the public trust associated with operating these vehicles.

School Bus Driver:      This class of driver transports our nation’s most precious cargo.  The professional and personal conduct of a School Bus Driver can have a direct impact on the safety of the students they transport.

Ambulance Driver:     This class of driver is tasked with transporting people who are most vulnerable.  Because transported patients are ill or injured, they are in no positon to care for themselves, so the Ambulance Driver must be a person of high character to be able to ensure the patient’s safe transport.

Tow Truck Driver:       This class of driver is called to the scene of traffic collisions and disabled vehicles.  In that capacity, the Tow Truck Driver is often entrusted with a person’s vehicle or the contents of that vehicle.  Because of this, a Tow Truck Driver is held to a High Standard.

The process of applying for and then maintaining a Special Certificate subjects a driver to the highest standards of conduct both professionally or personally.  If the Department of Motor Vehicles receives information that an applicant for, or the current holder of a Special Certificate has been involved in any situation which violates the public trust, the DMV will move to Refuse, Suspend, Revoke, or Cancel a California Special Driver Certificate.

If you have received an Order to Refuse/Suspend/Revoke or Cancel a California Special Driver Certificate, the DMV has just placed you on notice that the department has already begun the process to prevent you from driving a specialized vehicle.  There should be no mistake, if you have received such an order, the department is not warning you that an investigation is underway, the department is putting you on notice that an investigation has already been conducted and that the DMV has concluded the action against your Special Certificate is warranted.

If the preservation of your Special Certificate is critical to your future, you must react quickly; ignoring the order will result in the DMV terminating your privilege to operate a School Bus, Ambulance or Tow Truck.

Why does the DMV send an Order to Refuse, Suspend, Revoke, or Cancel a California Special Driver Certificate?

 In short, the DMV sends this order because it has received information from some source that a driver has violated some category of law, has failed to follow some regulation or law regarding the safe operation of a specialized vehicle, has demonstrated that they are a negligent operator of a motor vehicle, has committed some act of moral turpitude, or has developed a medical/physical/mental condition that makes them unsafe to operate a specialized vehicle.

Because the DMV is entrusted to ensure the driving fitness of all drivers, especially those people who are applying for or already holding a Special Certificate, the department is mandated to conduct an investigation into any allegation that such a driver may not meet the high standards required to hold a Special Certificate.  If the department’s investigation reveals any suggestion that the allegation against the driver is correct, it will immediately act to terminate the privilege of that person to operate specialized vehicles.  Essentially, the DMV will “act first and ask questions later.”

How did the DMV discover what I did?

The California Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) is hard-wired into the very fabric of our society and therefore receives information regarding the fitness of Special Certificate applicants or holders from a variety of sources.  The DMV may receive unfavorable information from:

  • The California Department of Justice or FBI
  • Local, County, State or Federal Law Enforcement Agencies
  • Paramedics, fire fighters or other first responders
  • Employers
  • Media sources
  • Friends, family or neighbors
  • Physicians or other medical professionals
  • Anonymous tipsters
  • DMV’s own database

The California Vehicle Code is written in such a way to mandate that the DMV conduct an investigation into any suggestion or allegation that a Special Certificate applicant or holder does not meet the standards necessary to operate a specialized vehicle.

What happens now that the DMV sent me this Order?

If you have received an Order to Refuse, Suspend, Revoke, or Cancel a California Special Driver Certificate essentially you have two choices:

  • Accept the DMV’s action and either terminate the application for a Special Certificate or terminate driving a specialized vehicle if you already hold a Special Certificate. If you choose this approach, you must honor the Order for a period of one year and then are permitted to re-apply for the issuance of the certificate.
  • Reject the DMV’s action and decide to defend yourself in an attempt to reverse the DMV’s action.

If your decision is to fight the Order, there is a requirement that you react quickly.  The Order will explain that you have a right to defend yourself at an Administrative Hearing.  If you choose to do so, you must contact the Special Certificates Unit in Sacramento within 14 days of the date the Order is signed.  You must prepare and file a specific form requesting a hearing.  Once the Special Certificate Unit receives your request, they are required to transfer your file to the Driver Safety Office located closest to your home for the setting of a hearing date.

Failure to contact the Special Certificate Unit within the first 14 days will waive your right to a hearing and then the DMV’s action will automatically take effect.

How can I fight for my Special Certificate?

The only way you will prevail at a Special Certificate Hearing is to completely investigate the allegation that initiated the action.  Once the issue has been fully investigated, you must prepare your case as though you are entering a trial in court.

Evidence is presented.  Witnesses may testify.  Experts may offer opinions.  Legal arguments are heard and objections are considered.  This is a tough battle as the DMV is permitted to presume the accuracy and honesty of the information it has received.  The accused driver must rebut that presumption by way of evidence or testimony.    Winning a Special Certificate Hearing requires some working knowledge of the Vehicle Code, Evidence Code, Administrative Procedures Act and the California Code of Civil Procedures.  This can be quite a lot for a driver to master, but it is critical.

The driver who is defending himself/herself at a Special Certificate Hearing is not required to be represented by anyone.  The accused driver is legally permitted to schedule, prepare and present their own case.  They need not spend one dime on professional defense.  However, because the process is so complicated and because so much is at stake, you may consider being represented by an Administrative Advocate.  Administrative Advocates are specially trained and experienced defense experts who represent drivers at administrative hearings.  While there is no legal requirement that you be represented at your hearing, the likelihood of victory is much greater with this type of representation.

Once a Special Certificate Hearing comes to a close, the assigned hearing officer will prepared a “proposed decision” that is then sent to the Certificate Action Review Board (CARB) in Sacramento.  The Certificate Action Review meets once per month to review proposed decisions and will consider all information, testimony and evidence presented at the hearing.  The CARB will then publish a final decision that is then mailed to the accused driver.

DMV Administrative Advocates can assist you in preparing your defense and provides a greater likelihood of victory.  You can also learn more and study a complete overview of the Special Certificate hearing procedure here.

Talk to a DMV Defense Expert