Case History: California Drivers Advocates was engaged to assist our client in fighting to protect her School Bus Drivers Certificate after the California Highway Patrol had accused her of not properly conducting a “pre-trip” safety inspection of her school bus. California Law makes it mandatory for a School Bus Driver to conduct a multi-point safety inspection each morning before transporting children.
Our client is a 46 year old female who has been professionally operating school buses in San Luis Obispo County for 12 years. After driving thousands of miles while transporting countless numbers of children, not one child had ever been harmed while under her care. As you would expect, our client had a perfect driving record and no criminal history.
In January 2016, our client learned that her employer was investigating an allegation that she had twice failed to complete a “pre-trip” safety inspection of her bus. The employer had reported the allegation to the School Bus Coordinator at the California Highway Patrol and the DMV was in the process of revoking her School Bus Driver Certificate.
Our Client is also an outspoken member of the School Bus Drivers Union and there were problems brewing between the Union and her School District. Interestingly enough, the supervisor who was making the allegation against our Client is also the same person who was the antagonist between the School District and the Union. It was abundantly clear that the allegation against our Client was retribution because she was a thorn in the Supervisor’s side.
When the DMV received the report from the CHP, they immediately moved to revoke our client’s School Bus Certificate for a minimum of one-year and ordered her to surrender her certificate to the CHP. The loss of her Special Certificate would mean her immediate termination as a School Bus Driver and the Supervisor would have gotten the results she was seeking.
DMV’s Position: The California DMV’s position was crystal clear. If the department receives a report from a Law Enforcement Officer suggesting that a school bus driver has committed an act or omission while operating a school bus that violates the law or endangers the safety of children, the DMV’s policy is to automatically presume the accuracy of the allegation and to immediately stop the accused driver from transporting children.
In many instances, this “shoot first and ask questions later” approach to enforcement works well and is justified. But in our client’s case, it was clearly abusive and not warranted. Nonetheless, her career was at stake and she had to fight back.
Our Defense: Thankfully, our client contacted us immediately after receiving the Order of Revocation in the mail. We immediately contacted the Special Certificate Unit of the DMV to request a hearing and to request a “Stay of Revocation.” Our initial contact with the DMV was timely and compelling enough that the Special Certificate Unit granted our request to Stay the Revocation, which allowed our client to continue driving school buses while the case moved forward. This was enormously important to our client as the entire process took eight months to complete. Had we not been successful in securing the Stay of Revocation that would have meant eight months that our client could not have worked as a School Bus Driver.
Once the hearing was set and the Stay of Revocation was approved, we began the arduous process of collecting the DMV’s evidence and conducting our investigation. As is the situation in all of our cases, the secret to success was a complete investigation, thorough preparation, and a robust presentation at the Special Certificate Hearing.
It quickly became apparent that the entire action against our Client was manufactured by her supervisor as a means to silence her activities within the Union. Our client’s driving record was immaculate and her employment record was unblemished. Although the investigating CHP officer has an obligation to conduct a full and impartial investigation, he based his decision upon the statements of the supervisor alone. We were able to prove that he did not interview our Client and that he did not interview any co-workers.
We were able to secure copies of the security video from our Client’s bus on the days in question. The video was grainy and not complete but what was available clearly revealed that our client was conducting her pre-trip safety inspection.
When we finally entered the hearing at the San Luis Obispo Driver Safety Office, our Client was frightened, but she was ready. Because we had worked so diligently to prepare her for testimony, she was able to completely engage the Hearing Officer and presented herself with confidence and credibility.
The hearing officer accepted all of our affirmative evidence without objection. We were completely prepared to cross-examine the CHP Officer which revealed the arbitrary nature of his investigation and the fact that he did not review available evidence. The CHP Officer was quite angry at being “called out” but it was necessary. Essentially, we argued that our client had conducted her pre-trip inspections and that there was no evidence to suggest otherwise. We played the security video from the bus for the hearing officer to demonstrate that, when she was captured on video, our Client was performing her inspections.
At the conclusion of any School Bus Certificate Hearing, the DMV hearing officer does not have the final say in the outcome. The hearing officer simply makes a recommendation to the Certificate Action Review Board in Sacramento. In his recommendation to the board, the hearing officer recommended that no action be taken against our Client’s School Bus Certificate.
Outcome: Eight months after we were retained, we received the final decision in the mail from the Certificate Action Review Board. In its final decision, the review board had adopted the recommendation of the hearing officer and “Set Aside” any revocation of our client’s school bus certificate. The Board determined that no action was “warranted.” This was a complete victory with no strings attached. As a result, our Client’s School Bus Certificate is safe and the children she transports are in the hands of a highly experienced and dedicated professional driver.
If the DMV is revoking your School Bus Certificate, call us immediately. If the DMV announces that they are working to revoke your School Bus Driver’s Certificate, make no mistake they intend to take you off the road RIGHT NOW and will ask questions later. If you hope to save your certificate and if you hope to keep driving while the process is working, you must respond quickly.
At California Drivers Advocates, we’ve seen every dirty trick in the DMV’s book. We know what they are doing and we know how to turn it around. Don’t let the DMV destroy your career without a fight. Call CDA now. We can help.