What is a Dementia Hearing at the DMV?
Whenever a person operates a motor vehicle in the State of California, they remain under the “watchful eye” of the California Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV). As one of the most powerful State Agencies, the DMV is responsible for ensuring the safety of the motoring public by monitoring their driving habits as well as their Physical and Mental Fitness to drive. If the DMV were to ever suspect that an individual driver does not possess the Skill, the Knowledge, or the Fitness to drive; they can move aggressively to remove that person from driving to protect the public.
Increasingly, one of the most profound issues of concern for the DMV is drivers who are diagnosed with some form of Cognitive Decline. While mild memory loss is common as drivers age, the DMV is more intensely focused on drivers who have been diagnosed with some form of Dementia or Alzheimer’s disease.
Because safe driving requires the driver to juggle a multitude of physical and cognitive tasks at one time, the conventional wisdom is that a person suffering with Dementia no longer possesses the cognizance, skill or ability to drive. The DMV is acutely aware that a person with Dementia may cause a traffic accident with tragic consequences and in all cases; the Department will seek to prevent that from happening.
If the DMV receives information that a person’s ability to drive may be affected by a diagnosis of Dementia or Alzheimer’s disease, it will move quickly to suspend or revoke that person’s privilege to drive. Once the DMV has issued an Order of Suspension or Revocation and feels that the public safety has been preserved, the department will then entertain the idea of allowing the accused driver to defend themselves. This is a case of “closing the door behind the horse,” but it is the reality of our system.
If the California Department of Motor Vehicles issues an order to suspend or revoke a person’s driving privilege for a Physical or Mental disorder identified as Dementia or Alzheimer’s disease, the affected driver is entitled to request an administrative hearing before the DMV to rebut the DMV’s action and to provide evidence of their fitness to drive. Known as a Dementia Hearing, this is a full-blown evidentiary proceeding where the driver may present evidence and witnesses. In all cases, the driver will testify so the assigned DMV Hearing Officer can personally evaluate that person’s cognitive deficit. These are complicated proceedings where the rules of evidence apply and both the California Code of Regulations and the Administrative Procedures Act are strictly enforced. In nearly all cases, the individual driver will have no knowledge of the process. Furthermore, there are very few attorneys in the state who have any training or experience in such matters.
Once a driver has received notification of a Suspension or Revocation, it is critically important that they react quickly. There is normally a very brief window of opportunity to contact the Driver Safety Office and request a hearing. It is imperative the driver make the initial contact with the department within 14 calendar days or risk forfeiture of their right to a hearing.
The DMV’s working definition of Dementia/Alzheimer’s Disease is:
Any chronic or persistent disorder of the mental processes caused by brain disease or injury and marked by memory disorders, personality changes, and impaired reasoning.
What happens if I don’t conduct a Dementia Hearing?
The unfortunate truth is that many forms of Dementia are progressive; meaning they are likely to deteriorate over time. That said, however, if you are currently stable and wish to enjoy the freedom and independence of driving for as long as possible; taking no action with the DMV is not an option.
Furthermore, if you have a form of Dementia that is stable or is actually reversible; or if you have been misdiagnosed, taking no action with the DMV would result in an unnecessary disaster. Our thinking is that you should never let the government steal your freedom without a fight.
As stated above, if the DMV suspects you suffer with Dementia or Alzheimer’s disease, it will assume the worst and will work quickly to yank you off the road. If an accused driver takes no action to reverse the DMV’s decision, their driving privilege will remain withdrawn for an indeterminate period of time. This means “forever,” or until you take the action necessary to reverse the DMV’s decision. If you take no action, the DMV will be delighted to hold your license in suspension/revocation and you must stop driving. This just doesn’t sound smart unless your condition really has progressed to the point where you are no longer safe to drive.
What happens at a Dementia Hearing?
First of all, the involved driver must request a hearing. As stated above, most people will receive an Order of Suspension/Revocation in the mail that alerts them to the fact the DMV is taking them off the road over a concern for Dementia or some other medical disorder. The law requires that the affected driver contact the Driver Safety Office closest to their home within 14 days of the mailing of the notice (10 days if provided in-person), or the right to a hearing is forfeit. If you have received an Order of Suspension/Revocation from the DMV, contact the DMV Defense Experts at California Drivers Advocates (CDA) immediately so we can preserve your right to a hearing.
Once your hearing has been scheduled, your CDA Advocate will begin the process of putting you on the road to successfully prepare, conduct and win your hearing. CDA will prepare a “broad spectrum” defense to demonstrate that you have the Skill, the Knowledge and the Physical/Mental Fitness to drive.
A properly presented case consists of two elements:
- Documentary Evidence
- Testimonial Evidence
Documentary Evidence: The presentation of valid documentary evidence is necessary to present the opinions of medical professionals or other persons who have knowledge of you. This may include medical evaluations by doctors, documents which demonstrate diagnostic medical testing, or the sworn statements of people who can testify to your mental fitness. All of this information is collected in forms or formats acceptable to the DMV.
Testimonial Evidence: Without question, the testimony of the accused driver is vital to winning a Dementia hearing. As your hearing approaches, your CDA Advocate will prepare you thoroughly for testimony. Because you will appear as your own witness, it is critical that you be prepared to testify with great credibility and knowledge. The hearing officer will be evaluating what you say and how you say it.
There should be no mistake that an administrative hearing for Dementia is a complicated legal proceeding where evidence is identified and introduced, expert witnesses may testify and legal arguments are heard. It is important that you be represented by a DMV Defense expert with years of experience dealing with this type of matter. The fact is……. These hearings can be won, but only if they are handled correctly.
Call CDA Today….. Our compassionate and patient team can get you through this.
Being diagnosed with some form of Dementia can be a shattering and frightening experience for any person. To then have that compounded by the DMV suspending your driver license is further demoralizing. Don’t let the DMV steal your privilege to drive without a fight. There are literally thousands of people driving today with various levels of Cognitive Decline or Dementia because they were able to prove they are stable.
The DMV Defense Experts at California Drivers Advocates have been representing California drivers with Dementia for decades. We’ve seen every dirty trick played by the DMV to strip a person of their driving privilege. Call us today and let us put together a winning strategy to beat the DMV at its own game.