What is a DMV Lapse of Consciousness Hearing?
Known as a Lapse of Consciousness Hearing, this is a full-blown evidentiary proceeding where the driver may present evidence and witnesses. If the California Department of Motor Vehicles takes an action to suspend or revoke any person’s driving privilege because of a Lapse of Consciousness or Control, the affected driver is entitled to request an administrative hearing to rebut the DMV’s concern.
What is a Lapse of Consciousness Hearing at the DMV?
Whenever a person holds a driver license in the State of California, they remain under the scrutiny of the California Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV). Whether that driver holds a California Driver License or is driving on an “out of state” license, the California DMV wants to know that all drivers within our state have the Skill, the Knowledge and the Physical/Mental Fitness to drive. If at any point the DMV learns a driver may not have the Skill, the Knowledge, or the Fitness to drive; the department will conduct some type of an investigation to determine why and if there is good cause to remove them from the road.
The DMV may conduct a Re-Examination interview which is essentially an investigation they conduct prior to suspension. On the other hand, if the information received comes from a physician or if the information suggests that a driver poses an immediate hazard to the public, the Department will bypass the re-examination process and move to immediate suspension. If the re-examination process does not end favorably, or if the Department moves to immediate suspension, the driver is entitled to a full-blown Administrative Hearing to rebut the DMV’s case.
A full-blown evidentiary hearing can be difficult to navigate for those people with no experience in Administrative Law. Moreover, there are very few attorneys who excel in DMV Hearings.
One of the “Hot Button” issues for the DMV is any person who suffers a Lapse of Consciousness or Control. Whether the event occurs while driving or not, the DMV’s concern is that any Lapse of Consciousness or Control, may indicate the presence of an underlying medical, physical or mental condition that could result in a catastrophic traffic accident. In all cases, the DMV will seek to prevent such a tragedy from occurring.
Health and Safety Code Section 2806, defines a “Lapse of Consciousness” as those medical conditions that involve:
- A loss of consciousness or a marked reduction of alertness or responsiveness to external stimuli; and
- The inability to perform one or more activities of daily living; and
- The impairment of the sensory motor functions used to operate a motor vehicle.
- Examples of medical conditions that do not always, but may progress to the level of functional severity described in subsection (a) of this section include Alzheimer’s disease and related disorders, seizure disorders, brain tumors, narcolepsy, sleep apnea, and abnormal metabolic states, including hypo-and hyperglycemia associated with diabetes.
Health and Safety Code Section 103900 (a), makes it mandatory for all doctors to report such events to the DMV:
“Every physician and surgeon shall report immediately to the local health officer in writing, the name, date of birth, and address of every patient at least 14 years of age or older whom the physician and surgeon has diagnosed as having a case of a disorder characterized by lapses of consciousness.“
Some of the more common Physical or Mental conditions associated with a Lapse of Consciousness or Control are:
- Non Epileptic Seizure Disorder
- Diabetes causing hypoglycemic events
- Sleep Apnea and Narcolepsy causing excessive day-time sleepiness
- Brain Tumors
- Alzheimer’s Disease, Cognitive Decline or other forms of Dementia
- Parkinson’s Disease
- Habitual Use or addiction to drugs, alcohol or medication
- Drug reaction
- Change in Medical Regimen,
- Cardiac Disorders
- Pulmonary Disorders.
If the California Department of Motor Vehicles takes an action to suspend or revoke any person’s driving privilege because of a Lapse of Consciousness or Control, the affected driver is entitled to request an administrative hearing to rebut the DMV’s concern. Known as a Lapse of Consciousness Hearing, this is a full-blown evidentiary proceeding where the driver may present evidence and witnesses. In almost all cases, the accused driver will testify to establish his/her fitness to drive. These are complicated legal proceedings where the rules of evidence apply and both the California Code of Regulations and the Administrative Procedures Act are strictly enforced. In most cases, California drivers have neither the training or experience to handle such a hearing on their own, and the DMV will do little or nothing to assist a driver.
Once a driver learns their driving privilege has been suspended or revoked, they normally have a very narrow window of opportunity to schedule a hearing; normally within 14 days. It is imperative that you act quickly to preserve your right to hearing otherwise the DMV will sustain the suspension and won’t give you an opportunity to fight.
This type of suspension is in place for an “indeterminate” period of time. Essentially, this means your privilege to drive will remain suspended forever, or until you take the steps to reverse the action. The burden is on the driver.
What Happens if I don’t Conduct a Lapse of Consciousness Hearing?
If your privilege to drive is important, taking no action is not a viable option. As stated above, once the California Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) suspects that a person suffers from some form or physical or mental condition that can cause altered awareness or a Lapse of Consciousness, the Department will act swiftly to ensure the safety of the public by taking you off the road. If you take no action, you’re privilege to drive will be withdrawn and you simply must stop driving………. period!
And remember, once your license has been suspended for a Lapse of Consciousness or Control, there is not expiration date. You simply will be barred from driving until you take the steps to restore your driving privilege.
Don’t let the DMV steal your driving privilege without a fight. There are scores of people driving on our roads right now who suffer with a myriad of physical and mental conditions because they are able to demonstrate they are medically stable and adhering to a medical treatment regimen.
What Happens at a Lapse of Consciousness Hearing?
First of all, remember that once a driver receives an Order of Suspension in the mail for a Lapse of Consciousness or Control, the law requires the driver to file a request for a hearing within 14 days or the matter is closed. If your driver license has been suspended, contact the DMV Defense Experts at California Drivers Advocates (CDA) immediately to ensure your right to a hearing is preserved.
Once your hearing has been scheduled, CDA will then work to put you on the road to success. Any good Lapse of Consciousness Hearing consists of three primary elements: Documentary Evidence, Testimonial Evidence, and a Legal Argument. Each of these steps is vital and must be properly addressed:
Documentary Evidence: In preparation for your hearing, your Administrative Advocate from CDA will guide you in the collection of medical evidence. This may include visits with several physicians and other medical professionals to establish that all medical conditions are stable. This can also include the collection of other items of evidence and sworn declarations from friends and family to establish your fitness to drive. All of this is established on forms and in formats acceptable by the DMV.
If presented properly, favorable medical evidence can be the difference between winning and losing your hearing. It is also critical that you be completely versed in what the medical evidence documents as you may be questioned about that evidence.
Testimonial Evidence: As your hearing approaches, your Administrative Advocate will very carefully prepare you for testimony. Because you will appear as your Advocate’s witness, you can be fully prepared to answer questions under direct and cross examination. Being fully prepared will assist you in answering questions intelligently and with great credibility. Being ready to answer questions from the hearing officer during cross-examination is vital as well. Hearing Officers are trained to suspect that drivers will be evasive and will withhold negative information, so it is critical that you be properly prepared for cross-examination.
Legal Argument: The last step in your Lapse of Consciousness Hearing is a Legal Argument. With decades of experience handling this type of hearing, your CDA Administrative Advocate is well versed in all aspects of the California Vehicle Code, the Government Code, the Administrative Procedures Act, and the California Code of Regulations. Your Advocate understands the power of the law and understands how to use these codes to your advantage. Beyond the basic laws involved, your Advocate will highlight those facts that make your case unique. This is where we add personality to your case. Your closing argument is basically where your Advocate uses law, facts, and personality to wrap your case up and to argue why you should be returned to driving. This step is vital as it is the final comment the Hearing Officer will hear before the hearing ends.
You should make no mistake, these hearings are complicated legal proceedings where evidence is identified and introduced. Expert witnesses may testify and legal arguments are heard. There are certain DMV protocols in place which can be disastrous to a defense team if they are not aware of these rules. For example, when a driver has suffered a Lapse of Consciousness or Control, the DMV requires that the driver establish a 90-day period of control. This means that for a period of 90-days, the driver has not experienced another medical episode and that there have been no changes in primary medications. If you conduct your Lapse of Consciousness Hearing before you establish a 90-day period of control, you are sure to lose. It is important that you be represented by someone who has a long-history of winning this type of hearing and who understand the DMV’s habits. Don’t despair…. With proper representation these hearings can be won.
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Call CDA Today……… We can guide you through the maze of the DMV.
Conducting a Lapse of Consciousness Hearing can be a harrowing experience that can be made even worse by the uncaring attitude of the DMV. Not understanding the DMV hearing process and not knowing where to turn for help can cause many drivers to simply give up out of frustration. Don’t let this happen to you. There are literally thousands of drivers on California roads to today with a wide variety of medical problems because they were able to convince the DMV of their physical and mental fitness to drive. We can help you establish your fitness to drive. We can get you back on the road.
The DMV Defense Experts at California Drivers Advocates have been representing California Drivers for decades. We know every game played by the DMV and know how to present a winning defense to get you back on the road.