Why Does the California DMV Suspend a Driver License for Anxiety? The California Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) is the government agency empowered by the California State Legislature to oversee the issuance of driver licenses in the State of California. The DMV is tasked with testing and vetting all people applying for a driver license to ensure they have the skill, knowledge and ability to drive. Once a driver license is issued, however, the DMV then steps into the role of constant oversight. For the remainder of the person’s driving life, the DMV is vigilant to ensure that person maintains the ability to drive.
The DMV can withdraw any person’s driver license if good cause exists. The DMV will take a suspension or revocation action against a person’s driving privilege if the driver loses the skill or the knowledge to drive. However, the DMV will also seek to remove a driver from the road if they develop any physical or mental condition that impacts their ability to drive.
The DMV is particularly concerned about those drivers who suffer or develop disorders in the area of mental health. Some of the most common mental health issues reviewed by the DMV are:
- Bi-Polar Disorder
- Dementia / Alzheimer’s Disease
- Post-traumatic stress disorder
In this article, we address the DMV’s concern with Anxiety Disorders. Anxiety Disorders are a group of mental health disorders characterized by feelings of anxiety and fear, where anxiety is a worry about future events and fear is a reaction to current events. These feelings may cause physical symptoms such as a racing heart and shakiness. Such physiological symptoms can affect a person’s ability to safely drive. Anxiety Disorders are partly genetic but may also be triggered by the use of drugs or alcohol as well as the withdrawal from certain drugs.
The treatment for Anxiety Disorders includes changes to one’s lifestyle, therapy, and medications. Medications are normally only recommended if other measures are ineffective. The use of prescription medications is a concern for the DMV because they may cause impairment. Also this category of medication are addicting and prone to abuse.
How Does the DMV Learn I Have an Anxiety Disorder? The DMV may receive information about a person’s mental health from a variety of sources. Some of the most common are:
- Law Enforcement Officers who refer the driver to the DMV after a contact.
- Medical Professionals who conclude their patient’s anxiety makes them unsafe to drive.
- Other medical professionals such as paramedics who are concerned about safe driving.
- Friends or family members who fear the driver’s Anxiety Disorder or misuse of medications is creating a danger.
- The individual driver may reveal an Anxiety Disorder while applying for a new license or renewing an existing license.
- Anonymous tipsters. That’s right. The DMV will accept a report from an anonymous source and will investigate the driver.
What action will the DMV take if they learn I have an Anxiety Disorder? The DMV’s reaction to an allegation of Anxiety depends on the severity of the report and the source. If the report is derived from a law enforcement officer, friend or family member, the DMV is more likely to take a more subdued approach to investigation. On the other hand, if the information comes from a physician or other medical professional, the DMV is much more likely to be more aggressive and move directly to suspension.
When the DMV receives an allegation of an Anxiety Disorder, the department essentially has three options:
- Take No Action: When the DMV receives information that a driver suffers from an Anxiety Disorder, the matter is initially reviewed by a DMV employee. If it is determined the information does not create a concern for traffic safety, the department has the power to close the matter without further action. Frankly, it is not likely the DMV will turn a blind eye to such an allegation. The risk to public safety is far too great to allow the matter to close without some investigation.
- Re-Examination: In most instances the DMV will opt to order the driver in for “Re-Examination.” In this case, the affected driver will receive a “Notice of Re-Examination Appointment” from their local Driver Safety Office. The re-examination process is basically a less invasive means for the DMV to investigate whether or not a person’s Anxiety Disorder affects their ability to drive. As part of the re-examination process, the driver may be subjected to a written test, a vision test and a driving test. At the very least the driver will be interviewed by a Hearing Officer. At the conclusion of the process, if the assigned hearing officer determines there is no cause for concern, he or she may “end the action” or order a “Set Aside.” On the other hand, if the hearing officer suspects that a person’s Anxiety Disorder is not stable, that the driver is not adhering to a treatment regimen or suspects the driver may be abusing medications; the department will order the suspension of the driver license. At that point, the driver becomes eligible for an administrative hearing.
- Administrative Hearing: If the DMV has proceeded directly to suspension following receipt of information from a medical source, or if the DMV has suspended a person’s driver license following a Re-Examination; the effected driver is entitled to a full administrative hearing to present a defense. An administrative hearing of this nature can be a complicated and often confusing process. These hearings are conducted under the guidelines of the California Vehicle Code, the California Code of Civil Procedure and the Administrative Procedures Act. This type of hearing is run like a mini trial where evidence is introduced, expert witnesses may testify and legal arguments are heard.
When an administrative hearing comes to an end, the hearing officer may:
- Set Aside the Action
- End the Action
- Place the Driver on Medical Probation
- Suspend the Driver License
- Revoke the Driver License
What can I do to protect myself? The simple fact that the DMV is trying to suspend or revoke a person’s driver license can be a source of great stress and worry for most drivers. This is compounded by the fact that the DMV is not very forthcoming with information or guidance on how to defense oneself. In this case, information is power but representation is victory. If the DMV is taking an action to suspend or revoke your driver license for an Anxiety Disorder, don’t despair. The DMV’s action can be halted and you can preserve your license.
Call the DMV Defense Experts at California Drivers Advocates for a free consultation. We can help! Telephone us at (888) 281-5244 or find us on the web at www.dmv-defenders.com.