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DMV Victory -Fraudulent Activity Hearing – Stockton Driver Safety Office

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Case History: California Drivers Advocates was engaged to assist a client whose commercial driver license was being revoked by the California DMV because of the department’s belief he had committed an act of fraud in the process of renewing his Class “A” Driver License.

In 2014 and 2015, the California Department of Motor Vehicles discovered that a group of DMV employees were conspiring to fraudulently issue and renew driver licenses to persons in exchange for payment of money.  A very broad investigation was launched involving the California DMV, the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Department of Homeland Security to discover the scope of the crime and punish those involved.

Our 31 year old client had been the holder of a valid Commercial Class “A” driver license for 15 years and had a remarkably clean driving record.  He is the owner/operator of his own trucking company and drives more than 50,000 miles per year transporting freight in and around the Bay Area.  The allegation against our client arose when he attempted to renew his Commercial Class “A” driver license prior to its expiration.  The DMV believed our client had conspired with the owner of a truck driving school and a DMV employee to receive a renewed Class “A” Driver License without taking the required battery of written tests.

DMV’s Position: The California DMV’s position was crystal clear.  If the driver was involved in the fraudulent application for, or the renewal of, a driver license, he was ineligible to drive and should be punished with a suspension/revocation. It was the stated goal of the DMV to completely revoke our client’s privilege to drive for a minimum of one year.

This would have been a devastating blow to our client as he would have lost the privilege to drive, which is how he supports his family.  Additionally, the larger DMV investigation was still on-going and our client faced the possibility of arrest and prosecution.

Our Defense: Our defense began by immediately contacting the DMV and setting up a Fraudulent Activity Hearing at the Stockton Driver Safety Office.  We also immediately applied for, and was granted, a Stay of Suspension to stop the revocation of our client’s driving privilege until the ultimate outcome of the hearing.

Our defense was that while the DMV has every right to suspend/revoke the driving privilege of a person who has committed an act of fraud when applying for or renewing a driver license, they have the burden of establishing sufficient evidence to prove that the driver was guilty of the allegation.  Our assessment of the DMV’s evidence was that they did not possess sufficient evidence to prove their case.

This became even more evident when the Department of Motor Vehicles actually issued a subpoena for the personal appearance of our client at a DMV hearing.  The subpoena sought to force our client to testify against his own interest.  It was clear that because of the weaknesses in their case, the DMV was seeking to force our client to testify against himself to gather the evidence they lacked.

After weeks of preparation, we opened the Fraudulent Activity Hearing at the Driver Safety Office in Stockton.  In 95% of administrative hearings, the hearing officer will begin by presenting the department’s evidence.  In our case, the hearing officer sought to begin the hearing by immediately seeking the testimony of our client.  As soon as the hearing began, we objected to the department’s tactics and explained that although our client was present in answer to the department’s subpoena, he would not be testifying.  It was our position that the DMV had not presented their evidence and that we were not prepared to allow our client to testify without knowing what the nature of the DMV’s case.  Additionally, we put on the record our concern that the larger DMV investigation was continuing and that any statements made in the DMV hearing could be used to perfect a criminal case against our client.

Angered by our obstruction to her plan, the hearing officer granted herself a continuance and sent the case to the California Attorney General’s Office asking them to file a civil case against our client.   The civil case would ask a Superior Court Judge to hold our client in contempt for refusing to answer questions.

Four months later, we received notification that the California Attorney General’s Office had, in fact, filed an Order to Show Cause and was asking a judge to find our client in contempt. In the weeks that followed, we were able to champion our client’s case to the Attorney General and were able to negotiate a settlement.  We demonstrated that there was insufficient evidence to prove our client had committed an act of fraud. We were further able to demonstrate that a Superior Court Judge was not likely to issue an order of contempt against a driver who was seeking to not incriminate himself in an on-going criminal investigation.

Outcome: At the conclusion of the negotiations with the Attorney General’s Office, we crafted a settlement agreement which dismissed all charges, allegations and claims against our client.  In return, our client served one-day of driver license suspension/revocation.  The very next day, the suspension/revocation was terminated and our client was permitted to challenge the entire testing process to be issued a new Commercial Class “A” Driver License.  We are happy to report that he passed all written and driving tests and is again safely driving a commercial vehicle. In addition to protecting his driving privilege, our efforts protected him from any criminal case filing.

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