DMV Win at a Negligent Operator Hearing for Road Rage
Case History: California Drivers Advocates was engaged to defend a client whose driver license had been suspended because the Department of Motor Vehicles had identified him as a Negligent Operator because of his involvement in a “Road Rage” incident.
Our 60 year old client owns and operates a business in San Diego County that services much of Southern California. He directly employs 15 people who rely upon him for their very livelihood. The nature of our client’s business requires him to drive extensively. Without the privilege to drive, our client’s business would close and many good people would suffer. Our client’s driving record is perfectly clean and he has absolutely no criminal history. He is a good man and a contributing member of society.
On a sunny afternoon in May 2016, our client was driving a work truck from his business in San Diego to a new job site in Rancho Mirage. He was in a great mood because a new job meant an injection of revenue into his business. Our client was driving northbound on the 15 freeway in the area of Temecula. As he approached the 15/215 split, our client merged onto the 215 freeway north and occupied the fast lane. Traffic was stop and go and never exceeded 30 mph.
About 100 yards north of the freeway interchange, our client was shocked to look into his left-side mirror and see a small red sedan cross through the “gore point” and begin driving on the shoulder of the 215 freeway. Our client came to a stop behind the car in front of him and watched as the driver of the red sedan attempted to insert himself into the tiny gap between the cars. Traffic was not moving very well so it took some time for a gap to open and when it did, the driver didn’t just gradually move into the lane, he dove into the lane directly in front of our client’s truck and slammed on the brakes causing our client to rear-end him at slow speed.
Over the course of the next several minutes, the driver of the red sedan repeatedly drove on the shoulder beside our client. He positioned his vehicle in such a way to prevent our client from exiting the freeway. At one point, the passenger of the red sedan actually reached out and slapped the side mirror of our client’s vehicle. The driver then “dove” into the lane directly in front of our client a second time and a second collision occurred. At this point, our client was able to pull into the center median and stop. When our 60 year old client stepped out of his truck with his camera in hand, he was immediately attacked and battered by the 25 year old driver of the other car.
When the responding CHP Officer arrived, he immediately handcuffed both drivers. Because the statements from the two drivers were in conflict with one another, the CHP Officer could not determine the truth so he referred both drivers to the DMV for a Re-Examination of their driving privilege, accusing them both of being involved in an act of “Highway Violence.”
Our client initially appeared at the Driver Safety Office in San Diego for his re-examination. He was not prepared for the event and the hearing officer too much of his testimony out of context. When the re-examination ended, our Client’s driver license was suspended.
Our client initially sought out attorneys in the San Diego area. He actually engaged an attorney who held himself out as a “DMV Specialist” but just days after hiring the attorney, our client lost all confidence in him because the attorney simply ignored many of our client’s concerns. Expanding his search for DMV Defense Experts, our client found us on the internet an engaged us immediately.
DMV’s Position: The California DMV’s position was crystal clear. The department is granted the power to monitor the driving habits and history of anyone driving in California and to identify any person as a Negligent Operator if their driving indicates they are negligent or incompetent.
California Vehicle Code section 13800 determines, “The department may conduct an investigation to determine whether the driving privilege of any person to operate a motor vehicle should be suspended or revoked….”
The California DMV takes a very dim view of people who commit acts of Road Rage because of the increased possibility of injury or death associated with such acts. The DMV will not hesitate to suspend a person’s license and then challenge the driver to rebut the action.
Our Defense: When the client retained us, we immediately went to work relieving the previous attorney of all obligation in the defense of our Client. We contacted the San Diego Driver Safety Office to insert ourselves into the case and then worked to change the hearing to the San Bernardino Driver Safety Office so the hearing was in an entirely new venue. We were astonished to discover that the previous attorney had not asked for a “Stay of Suspension,” so we immediately went to work restoring our client’s privilege to drive until the outcome of the hearing.
Early in our investigation, we learned that our client’s driving history had been remarkably clean for years. We also learned that he suffers with a series of medical disorders that must be addressed at the hearing.
During weeks of preparation, we issued subpoenas for traffic accident reports, 911 Audio Recordings, Dispatch Logs, Criminal History Reports and the live testimony of the CHP Officer. We collected photographic evidence and prepared diagrams. We collected relevant medical evidence to establish that our client was physically and mentally capable of safe driving. Our greatest challenge was preparing for the direct examination of the CHP Officer and the direct examination of our client.
From October 2016 to January 2017, we appeared three times at the Driver Safety Office to present our case. All of our affirmative evidence was accepted by the hearing officer without objection and we directly examined the CHP Officer for nearly two hours. Our client testified with great credibility and accepted full responsibility for his actions and identified the things he would do differently in the future. We worked very hard to demonstrate that our client was first and foremost a victim and that all of our evidence supported that.
At the conclusion of the Negligent Operator Hearing, the hearing officer took the matter under submission. One week later, we received official notice that the hearing officer had terminated the suspension of our Client’s driver license and had issued an Order of Set Aside. This completely dismissed the allegation as erroneous. Essentially, this returned our client to full driving privileges, without restriction and no period of suspension appeared on his record.
We were able to save our client’s driver license and thus he is driving for work and supporting his employees.
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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, including commercial drivers, the best opportunity to win their Administrative Hearing. If the DMV is working to suspend or revoke your driving privilege for any reason, give us a call. Visit our website here.
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