Case History: California Drivers Advocates was engaged to defend a client whose driver license was in jeopardy of being suspended for one year because the Department of Motor Vehicles had identified him as a Negligent Operator. The department’s computer database was reporting that he had accumulated a total of four violation points in a twelve-month period. The number had been achieved as a result of two DUI arrests that had occurred within months of one another.
Our Client was on active duty with the United States Marine Corps. As a helicopter mechanic, he had risen to the rank of Staff Sergeant and had also performed the duties of a Drill Instructor. During three combat tours in Afghanistan and Iraq, he had suffered repeated traumatic brain injuries and had seen things no one should. At the end of his last combat deployment, he returned to the US emotionally and physically broken.
He was suffering with myriad of physical and emotional injuries but initially didn’t recognize what was happening to him. His marriage fell apart and he began self-medicating with alcohol. This once shining star of the Marine Corps was on a downward spiral.
Our Client finally hit rock-bottom when in May and September of 2017, he was involved in two solo traffic accidents that resulted in two convictions for DUI. As terrible as that was, it was a turning point for this young man. He finally reached out to medical professionals and began getting the help he so desperately needed.
Initially, the DMV took a suspension action against his driver license because of the DUIs. When he had served his suspension period, he was ready to return to driving. This was when he learned the DMV had placed an additional hold on his license and was moving to suspend him for an additional year because they determined he was a Negligent Operator. So essentially he was suffering “double jeopardy.” He had been punished once for the DUI convictions, but the DMV was now moving to institute a second term of suspension to punish him for accumulating the violation points that came with the DUI convictions.
DMV’s Position: The California DMV’s position was crystal clear. Under California Vehicle Code section 13953, the DMV is empowered to immediately suspend or revoke the driving privilege of any person who drives in a manner that is unsafe for himself or other persons on the roadway. Vehicle Code section 12810.5 identifies the maximum number of NOTS points a driver may accumulate in a given period of time. If that maximum number is exceeded, the DMV presumes the driver to be negligent and the process to suspend or revoke the driver license is initiated.
It was the DMV’s goal to remove our Client from the road unless he could explain himself, mitigate the damage and convince the department to give him another chance.
Our Defense: When our client retained us, we immediately went to work to schedule his Negligent Operator Hearing at the Driver Safety Office in the City of Poway. Because his driving privilege was already suspended from the underlying DUIs, we were not able to get a Stay of Suspension.
Early in our investigation, we learned that our client’s driving history had been remarkably clean for years. During various assignments throughout the US, he had driven in several states. His driving was unblemished until his return from the last tour of combat. It was clear that within the span of 4 months, this strong honorable man had crumbled.
Using our training and experience, we anticipated a problem with the DMV. To properly defend him, we would have to reveal to the DMV what had caused the two DUI arrests to occur in such a short period of time. By revealing the physical and mental challenges he was facing, we would expose him to having his license suspended yet again for Physical or Mental Disorders that affect driving. So, we knew defense could result in numerous suspensions and repetitive hearings to get him back on the road. We wanted to avoid this revolving door.
At the hearing, we introduced our client’s testimony in which he accepted responsibility for his poor driving behavior. More importantly, we introduced a broad spectrum of defense that demonstrated he had immersed himself in a variety of treatment plans and programs, was working closely with his doctors and was making remarkable progress. We worked diligently to prepare him for testimony so he could testify with credibility and passion. We knew we were handling much more than a Negligent Operator Hearing.
At the conclusion of the Negligent Operator Hearing, the hearing officer completely agreed with our argument and was moved by the efforts our Client was making in his physical and mental recovery. The Hearing Officer took the extraordinary step of ending the suspension action on the spot.
Our Client was placed on driving probation. Today, he is medically retired from the United States Marine Corps and is using his driving privilege to continue working on his sobriety and to volunteer with disabled veterans.
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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. Whatever legal or scientific defense your case requires, CDA is ready to fight for you.