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What is the DMV’s burden of proof at a Financial Responsibility Hearing?

Why does the DMV conduct Financial Responsibility Hearings? The California Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) is the government agency empowered to grant the privilege to drive to qualified applicants. What few Californian’s realize, however, is the broad power the DMV is also granted to suspend or revoke a driver license. Various sections of the California Vehicle Code (CVC) grant the DMV the nearly unbridled power to constantly review and investigate the driving capability of all California drivers. If in its judgement, the DMV concludes that a driver no longer possess the ability to safely drive, or if the driver has violated certain sections of the Vehicle Code, the DMV will suspend or revoke that person’s privilege to drive without regard to the impact on that person’s life.

In this chapter we discuss the DMV’s suspension of a driver license because of its belief that a person owned or operated a motor vehicle involved in a reportable traffic accident when the involved vehicle was not covered by liability insurance or some other acceptable form of Financial Responsibility.

If the DMV is acting to suspend a person’s driver license, and if that driver wishes to contest the suspension, the matter is decided by the DMV at an administrative hearing known as a Financial Responsibility Hearing. The Financial Responsibility Hearing is an evidentiary hearing run in strict accordance to California Administrative Law. The Financial Responsibility Hearing can be complicated and frustrating, so the best hope for a driver who faces such an action is to be represented by a DMV Defense Expert.

What is the DMV’s burden of proof? To justify the suspension or revocation of a person’s driving privilege for Financial Responsibility, the DMV has the burden prove the following:

  • The accused person either owned or operated a motor vehicle that was involved in a “reportable accident.”
  • At the time of the “reportable accident” the involved vehicle was not covered by automobile insurance or any other acceptable form of Financial Responsibility.

What is a “Reportable Traffic Accident?”

The California Vehicle Code (CVC) section 16000(a) defines a reportable traffic accident as any incident involving a motor vehicle where:

  • There is any injury or death
  • There is property damage exceeding $1000

Fault in the accident is irrelevant. You could be 100% innocent in the cause of the accident, but still lose your driver license if you were not properly insured.

Driver’s Liability:        In the vast majority of cases, the obligation to prove Financial Responsibility falls to the driver. Any driver who operates a motor vehicle in the State of California must be able to prove that the vehicle was protected by Financial Responsibility at the time of driving.

Owner’s Liability:       In some cases, the obligation for Financial Responsibility falls to the owner of a motor vehicle, even if he was not the person driving at the time of the traffic accident. This normally occurs when the actual driver of the motor vehicle cannot be determined or when there was no driver.

An example of the identity of a driver not being known might occur if the vehicle is stolen and then involved in a reportable traffic accident. Even though it cannot be determined who stole and then crashed the car, the vehicle’s owner is still obligated to establish financial responsibility; and can lose his driver license if the car was not insured when it was stolen.

An example of a driverless car might occur when a person parks a car on a hill. The car may jump out of gear and then roll down a hill with no one at the wheel. Even though the car was a “runaway” vehicle and was not occupied at the time, the owner still has an obligation to establish proof of Financial Responsibility.

How can I attack the DMV’s burden of proof?  To put it bluntly, the issues present at a Financial Responsibility Hearing can be quite complex and frustrating. Few California drivers have the knowledge or experience to take on the DMV at this level, and there are very few attorneys who have ever handled such a hearing at the DMV.

The DMV Defense Experts at California Drivers Advocates (CDA) are an entirely different breed of legal representative. With years of experience beating the DMV at its own game, CDA has the experience and the will to fight for you. Don’t let the DMV steal your driving privilege without a fight. Call CDA today. We’re ready to step in and protect you from the first call.

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