Case History: California Drivers Advocates was engaged to defend a client whose Commercial Driver License had been summarily downgraded to a Class “C” driver license because the DMV suspected he was taking prescription medications that are banned by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Act.
Our Client’s story began when he was called into the DMV to explain why he had been involved in three motor vehicle accidents while operating a commercial vehicle in a short period of time. Our Client holds a Commercial Class “B” driver license and operates multi-passenger buses on a daily basis in the low desert. In the span of 6 months, he had been involved in three motor vehicle accidents while driving, but each time he was found to be not a fault. Nonetheless, the DMV holds Commercial Drivers to a very high standard of performance and so they labeled him as a Negligent Operator and threatened to suspend his privilege to drive unless he appeared for a hearing.
Not understanding the danger of appearing by himself, our Client initially appeared without representation. He actually represented himself quite well while explaining the series of accidents, but when the DMV Hearing Officer asked a series of medical questions, our client inadvertently admitted to taking prescription medications that are actually banned by the Federal Government.
The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Act (FMCA) is a Federal guideline that sets the standards required for drivers to operate Commercial Vehicles. FMCA Section 391.41 establishes those medical, physical or mental conditions that automatically disqualify a person from operating commercial vehicles. The FMCA also identifies certain prescription drugs and/or controlled substances that are prima facie “banned” for use by commercial drivers.
When our Client unwittingly admitted to taking prescription medications that are banned by the FMCA, the DMV was no longer focused on him as a Negligent Operator… Now they had much bigger fish to fry.
Two days after his Negligent Operator Hearing our Client received an Order of Restriction from the DMV which automatically downgraded him from a Class “B” driver license to a Class “C” driver license. This prohibited him from operating commercial vehicles and effectively put him out of work.
DMV’s Position: Even though the DMV is a California State Agency, it is bound by the Federal Motor Carriers Safety Act when it comes to the qualification of a commercial driver. When the DMV learned that our Client was taking certain prescription medications, they blindly presumed he suffered with a Mental Health issue which disqualified him from being a Commercial Driver.
The DMV’s position was quite clear. Downgrade the person’s Commercial Driver License to a regular Class “C” license and then challenge him to prove them wrong. A classic case of “shoot first and ask questions later.”
Our Defense: When the client retained us, we immediately went to work to schedule his Commercial Reinstatement Hearing. Although we were able to schedule the hearing within a short period of time, the DMV was not willing to “Stay” the downgrade of the license so our Client was out of work for weeks.
Early in our investigation, we learned that our client’s driving history had been remarkably clean for years. We learned that he had only had the three accidents on his record that triggered the action and that he drives nearly 40,000 miles per year for work.
We also learned very quickly that the prescription medications that were of such concern to the DMV were classically prescribed for Bi-Polar Disorder and Hallucinations. Obviously these are not things we want our bus drivers suffering with, however, we also learned that our Client’s doctor was prescribing the medications for entirely different issues, like weight loss and stuttering. As we all know, today’s pharmaceuticals can be used for a wide range of aliments; not just the issue it was originally created to treat. It was further interesting that our Client’s doctor had no clue that he was jeopardizing our Client’s financial future with the prescription meds he had selected.
After weeks of preparation, we presented our defense before the California Department of Motor Vehicles, Driver Safety Office in San Bernardino.
At the hearing, we introduced items of affirmative evidence to demonstrate what had caused the confusion. We introduced medical evidence to establish that our Client did not have a Mental Health Disorder and that he had been taken off of the banned medications. Because we had taken the time to prepare him, our client testified with great credibility and understanding.
At the conclusion of the Commercial Reinstatement Hearing, the hearing officer was completely perplexed. In all of her years on the job, she had never encountered a case such as ours. She promised to consider all of our evidence and to research the matter with DMV Headquarters and the Federal Government.
Two weeks later, we received notification that the Hearing Officer had cleared our Client to return to Commercial Driving. We were able to save our client’s driver license and thus his job. Today he is back on the road driving commuter buses and is committed to safe driving.
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The DMV Defense Experts at California Drivers Advocates include former police officers, DMV Hearing Officers, Investigators and Scientists. Our training, our experience and our reputation provide any driver the best opportunity to win their Administrative Hearing, including those hearings that are unusual and seldom seen. Whatever legal or scientific defense your case requires, CDA is ready to fight for you.