How to Prevent the DMV from Automatically Suspending Your Driver License
Few privileges in California are more precious to our citizens than the ability to drive a motor vehicle. Freedom of movement and the ability to travel at will are one of the hallmarks of living in this State. Because the cities and suburbs of California are so spread out and, because public transportation is not as vibrant as in other major areas, driving is critical. We drive to school, we drive to medical appointments and we drive for pleasure. For hundreds of thousands of Californians, the ability to do their jobs is directly dependent upon their ability to drive.
All California drivers are aware of the power the Department of Motor Vehicles has to grant a driving privilege. Few Californians however, are aware of the nearly unfettered power the DMV has to take that driving privilege away. That’s right…..that government issued document we all need so badly can be stripped away with little or no thought for how it will affect us.
Let’s identify the different means by which the DMV is empowered to steal your driver license. As a general rule, there are seven different categories under which the DMV can move to restrict, suspend, or revoke a person’s driver license. The categories are Administrative Per Se Actions, Zero Tolerance Actions, Negligent Operator Actions, Fraudulent Activity Actions, Physical and Mental Actions, Financial Responsibility Actions and Special Certificate Actions.
To say that the DMV will often make mistakes in their judgment is kind. To say that the DMV often acts with reckless abandon and completely ignores the driver’s need to maintain their license is more accurate.
Fortunately however, all is not lost. In all but a few rare instances, the DMV is required to inform the driver of the intended suspension or revocation of his or her driver license before the action takes effect. It has been the DMV’s policy to notify drivers of a pending action by sending notice through the U.S. Mail. Everything the DMV does is time sensitive and requires the driver to act within very short time frames. If the DMV’s notice is lost in the mail or, if the DMV’s records do not reflect the driver’s current address, a license suspension or revocation can go into effect without a driver being aware.
So, let’s assume you have received a notice in the mail from the Department of Motor Vehicles announcing their intention to restrict, suspend, or revoke your driver license. What do you do?
First of all, don’t panic. You can and should fight to protect yourself. Begin by reading the DMV’s paperwork carefully. The notice must notify you what action the DMV intends to take against your license and why they are doing so. The notice also must notify you of your right to an Administrative Hearing to demonstrate why the action should not be taken. Remember, everything the DMV does is “time sensitive” so be alert to the part of the notice that tells you how much time you have to react. Generally speaking, the DMV only permits a driver 10-14 days to request a hearing once the notice is received. You would be surprised how quickly your time will pass. The clock is ticking so don’t delay.
This is important………………If you fail to contact the DMV within the required time frame, your right to a DMV hearing is forfeit and your driver license will AUTOMATICALLY BE SUSPENDED. Don’t let this happen.
In almost all instances when you react within the required time frame, the DMV must grant you a hearing and they must extend your driving privilege until the date of that hearing. Remember the California Vehicle Code (CVC)? The CVC outlines your rights at a hearing. The law specifies that you may represent yourself at an Administrative Hearing. The law also permits you to be represented by an attorney or any other representative of your choosing. Essentially, you can represent yourself at an Administrative Hearing in an attempt to protect your driving privilege or, you can hire an expert to guide you through the system.
As insurmountable as this all sounds, DMV Hearings can be won by California’s drivers and the DMV can be proven wrong. Our citizens’ driving privileges can be protected and our drivers can remain on the road, but it requires a fight. There is no “down-side” to defending yourself. Why would you not fight for yourself?
The information contained in this article is provided as a public service by California Drivers Advocates, Inc. (CDA). CDA is a company comprised of Administrative Law Specialists based in Riverside, California. They are devoted to protecting and defending the rights of California’s drivers. For more information, visit CDA’s website at www.dmv-defenders.com.