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California Vehicle Code Section 13372 – DMV Defense for License Suspensions

California Vehicle Code (CVC) section 13372 is a broad and enormously powerful section of law. The legislative intent of this law was to grant the DMV the power to deny, suspend or revoke an Ambulance Certificate for nearly any act or omission that is construed as creating a hazard to patients.

How does the DMV use Vehicle Code Section 13372 to suspend or revoke an Ambulance Driver Certificate?

Ambulance drivers are among the most trusted of all California professional drivers.  Hundreds of times each day, ambulance drivers make emergency responses to aid patients who have been injured or are ill.  Once the ambulance driver delivers his crew to the scene of the call, he or she is then responsible for transporting their patient to higher medical treatment quickly and without causing additional harm.

Because ambulance drivers transport our nation’s vulnerable patients and because they must often operate their ambulance under emergency conditions, they are understandably held to a higher standard of driving performance and personal conduct than many other categories of professional driver.  Transporting patients can only be entrusted to those drivers who maintain the highest levels of professional and personal conduct.

Once an Ambulance Certificate is issued, the driver is closely monitored by the California Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) and the California Department of Highway Patrol (CHP), to ensure they maintain the physical and mental capacity to transport patients.  The DMV and CHP also monitor certificate holders for any other issue that may warrant a suspension or revocation of the Ambulance Certificate in the interest of patient safety.

California Vehicle Code (CVC) section 13372 is a broad and enormously powerful section of law. The legislative intent of this law was to grant the DMV the power to deny, suspend or revoke an Ambulance Certificate for nearly any act or omission that is construed as creating a hazard to patients.

CVC Section 13372 (a) determines:

The department shall refuse to issue or renew, or shall  suspend or revoke an ambulance driver certificate if any      of the following apply to the applicant or certificate holder.”      (1)    Is required to register as a sex offender for any offense involving force, violence, threat or intimidation(2)    Habitual or excessive use of narcotics or dangerous drugs(3)    Is on parole or probation for any felony, theft, or any crime involving force, violence, threat, or intimidation.

CVC Section 13372(b)determines: 

The department shall refuse to issue or renew, or shall suspend or revoke an ambulance driver certificate if any of the following apply to the applicant or certificate holder.” (1)    Has been convicted of any felony or theft within the previous 7 years, (2)  Has committed any act involving moral turpitude, including fraud or intentional dishonesty for personal gain within the previous 7 years, (3) Habitually or excessively uses intoxicating beverages, (4)  Has been convicted of any drug offense or any misdemeanor involving force, violence, threat, or intimidation within the previous 7 years, (5)  Is on probation to the DMV for a cause involving the unsafe operation of a motor vehicle, (6) Has had his or her driver license suspended or revoked by the DMV for any cause involving the unsafe operation of a motor vehicle within the previous 3 years, or within the same period has been convicted of any of the following: (A)    Failure to stop and render aid in an accident involving death or injury, (B)  Driving under the influence of alcohol, drugs or a combination thereof, (C) Reckless driving or reckless driving involving bodily injury, (7)  Has knowingly made a false statement or failed to disclose a material fact in his or her application, (8) Has been involved in a traffic accident causing death or injury, or three or more motor vehicle traffic accidents in one year, (9) Does not meet minimum medical standards, (10)  Has demonstrated irrational behavior or has incurred a physical disability, (11) Has violated any provision of the Vehicle Code in the operation of an emergency ambulance, (12)  Has committed any act warranting dismissal from employment.

 IMPORTANT NOTE:

California Vehicle Code (CVC) Section 13372 (B) (2) is an obscure section of the Vehicle Code that is often used by the DMV as a “catch all” section granting the department nearly unbridled power to suspend or revoke an Ambulance Certificate for nearly anything it determines to be an act of Moral Turpitude.  A suspension or revocation under this section of the law DOES NOT require that a person be convicted of ANY crime.  The mere commission of an act that is deemed immoral is sufficient to cause a suspension or revocation of the Ambulance Certificate.

For example we once represented an Ambulance Driver who had an argument with his wife over money.  The wife became enraged and made a false statement to police that her husband had abused her.  He was arrested and booked into the county jail for Domestic Abuse.  Later investigation would reveal there was absolutely no physical contact whatsoever, the simple fact that he had been arrested for an allegation of violence or intimidation caused the DMV to move to revoke his Special Certificate.  We later won the hearing and our Client’s Special Certificate was reinstated, but still had to go through the process to recover even though the allegation was false.

With increasing frequency, the California Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) will base an Ambulance Certificate action on a “finding of moral turpitude.” The DMV routinely does this because moral turpitude is difficult to define and gives the DMV Hearing Officer the nearly unrestrained ability to “label” any unwholesome or uncomfortable past event as being an “issue of moral turpitude.

The DMV’s definition of Moral Turpitude is:

“The act of baseness, vileness, or depravity in private or social duties, which man owes to his fellow man, or to society in general, contrary to the accepted and customary rule of right and wrong and the duty between man and man. Act or behavior that gravely violates moral sentiment or accepted moral standards of the community and is a morally culpable quality held to be present in some criminal offenses as distinguished from others.”

So, using the example above, the DMV’s position was that because our Client had been arrested for an allegation of Spousal Abuse; even though the criminal case was dismissed, the Department still found the arrest to be unsavory and not representative of the standards imposed on an Ambulance Driver.  Thus, they moved to revoke his Special Certificate under the label of “Moral Turpitude.”

While it is true that many Ambulance Certificate actions are imposed as a result of a court conviction, the DMV is also permitted to take a disciplinary action against an Ambulance Driver’s Certificate for  issues involving Moral Turpitude, even when no conviction occurs. Some acts involving moral turpitude include immoral sexual behavior, or crimes of personal gain, fraud, or theft.

California Vehicle Code (CVC) section 13372

DMV hearing officers are routinely taught to use the following as a working theory of Moral Turpitude: “Conduct which is contrary to justice, honesty, modesty, or good morals.”

How we use the Vehicle Code to defend your Ambulance Certificate?

The DMV’s enforcement of CVC section 13372 is a punitive administrative sanction designed to strip a person of a “vested property right.”  When this happens, the laws of Procedural Due Process apply.  Before an arbitrary action to deny, suspend or revoke a person’s Ambulance Certificate can take effect, the driver must be given an opportunity to protect themselves.

California Vehicle Code (CVC) section 13374 (a) is the section of the law that grants a driver the right to rebut the allegation affecting their Ambulance Certificate.

CVC section 13374 (a) determines:

“An applicant for, or the holder of, an ambulance driver certificate who has received a notice of refusal, suspension or revocation may submit, within 15 days after the notice has been mailed by the department, a written request for hearing.”

 IMPORTANT NOTE:

One of the ugliest aspects of a Special Certificate Suspension/Revocation is that the driver does not received an advance warning that a suspension/revocation is coming and therefore give driver an opportunity to defend himself before the certificate is suspended/revoked.  In case like this, drivers receive an “Order of Refusal/Suspension/Revocation” AFTER the DMV has begun the process.  What is even worse, the DMV will not grant a Stay of Suspension/Revocation to stop the action until the outcome of a hearing.  In these cases, the driver’s Special Certificate is Refused, Suspended, or Revoked before the driver can even begin to defend himself and the DMV will not put off the action until the truth is known. 

An interesting weakness in the Vehicle Code permits a driver who holds a Special Certificate for School Buses is permitted to have a Stay of Suspension pending the outcome of a hearing………. But not an Ambulance Special Certificate.  Essentially, this means an Ambulance Driver is not permitted to driver emergency ambulances while he defends himself.  Many Ambulance Drivers end up losing their jobs because their Special Certificate is pulled before they can even defend themselves.  Its awful, but is the law.

 Time Sensitivity:  Everything the DMV does is time sensitive and when dealing with issues regarding an Ambulance Drivers Special Certificate, you only have 15 days (from the date of mailing) to contact the DMV to schedule an administrative hearing; and remember, scheduling  hearing does not stop the suspension/revocation.   Delays in mail delivery or delays in your receiving the notice can quickly reduce the number of days you have to protect yourself.  If you have received any notice from the DMV that they intend to suspend or revoke your Ambulance Drivers Certificate under the provisions of CVC section 13372, you must react immediately or you lose the privilege of defending yourself.

It is common for the DMV to initiate a suspension or revocation action against an ambulance driver based upon inaccurate or misleading information.  It is also quite common for the DMV to overstep their bounds in their zeal to protect patients.  If you have received a notice of suspension or revocation, all is not lost.  These cases can be aggressively defended and they can be won.

Pick up the telephone and call the DMV Defense Experts from California Drivers Advocates (CDA).  We are a team of former police officers, former DMV hearing officers, investigators and scientists who are ready to turn the tables on the DMV.  We have been fighting and winning Ambulance Driver Certificate hearings throughout the State of California for years.  Wherever your hearing will be conducted, we’ve been there.    Don’t let the DMV steal your Ambulance Driver’s Certificate without a fight.  Call CDA today.

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