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7. Physical & Mental Health Suspensions

Why the Suspension?

Because we deal with the DMV so often, Sonoma DUI lawyers see lots of different types of suspensions, including those that arise out of medical conditions. Sometimes medical emergencies, or other physical or mental episodes, or unexplained or unskilled driving behavior will result in loss of driving privileges. Typically this occurs when police, doctors, or other professionals comply with their legal obligation to inform DMV if a condition or behavior appears to affect your ability to safely operate a vehicle. Often this process begins with a Sonoma County police officer serving on you a DS427 Notice of Reexamination (or see older 2008 version -- where driver fell asleep at the wheel then awoke, drove over raised median and wrong way into traffic -- or older 2003 version -- where erratic driving was alleged). Sometimes you don't get served with anything personally, but a suspension letter or one of the forms listed above just arrives in the mail. Often in these situtations it is a treating physician who contacts the DMV about you, rather than law enforcement. See, generally, Driver Safety Information Medical Conditions and Traffic Safety.

A reexamination may be a "Priority Reexamination" or a "Regular Reexamination," depending on which box is checked on the front of the DS427 form above. A priority reexamination is generally indicated when the alleged condition or behavior is perceived by the reporting party as more severe, presenting an increased or immediate safety risk if continued driving is permitted (see Vehicle Code Section 21061). If the "Priority Reexamination" box is checked at the top of the DS427 form, then the driver only has a short amount of time (five working days) to contact DMV to arrange for a hearing and gather information and supporting documentation to contest a pending license suspension (see Vehicle Code Section 12819). More information about the reexamination process may be found online at DMV's Reexamination Process - A General Guide for Drivers Required to Appear for a Reexamination, or on the printable DMV's Reexamination Process Fact Sheet.

Typically licensees who have been served with such a notice by a police officer will receive a DS2010 Notice of Reexamination, with instructions, from the DMV within days of the driving or medical incident, informing the driver that an appointment must be made for an interview to discuss the allegations. Sonoma DUI lawyers can explain this process to a driver, and even sit in on this interview, but are not permitted to represent the driver unless the DMV decides to take an adverse (suspension) action after the interview. In many cases, hiring a Santa Rosa DUI attorney at this time may be very beneficial, especially if an adverse ruling is possible or anticipated, so that the driver has an informed lawyer familiar with the case from the very beginning.

Alternatively, or in addition, or following the reexamination interview discussed above, you may receive a DS2439 Notice of Physical/Mental Condition Suspension, or following an unfavorable medical report or unsuccessful new written and/or drive test you may receive a DS2439 Notice of Lack of Skill Suspension, stating a reason for the DMV's action and your rights to contest a suspension in an interview or hearing. Although the Santa Rosa DMV recognizes that these kinds of conditions are not usually your fault, still, a hearing may be required, not to make you defend anything per se, but rather to determine if your continued driving may be a hazard to the safety of you and those around you, and what kinds of options you may have to re-obtain all or essential driving privileges.

As with any DMV notice, it is critical that you read and understand the contents of anything served upon you by a Sonoma County peace officer or anything you receive in the mail from DMV. Discuss any notices with a local Santa Rosa DUI attorney (good DUI lawyers regularly work with DMV law and are often the best source of advice and assistance even when your matter does not involve a DUI). Be sure that the DMV has your current mailing address. Be sure that you act prior to any deadline for contacting DMV. Talk to a local Sonoma County lawyer such as Jake immediately if you don't understand the process. Obviously, in these circumstances it is important to act quickly to remedy the condition if possible, or demonstrate adequate modification or accommodation which resolves concern for unsafe driving, or prove there is no legitimate driving-related concern.

DMV DS326The Medical Evaluation Form

Nearly every medical condition hearing in Santa Rosa is driven by an all important medical evaluation form. One of these may have been the initial reason for a current suspension. A Sonoma County DUI attorney will likely advise that a driver who is subjected to the Santa Rosa DMV's scrutiny typically must obtain a new medical report (now, or after a waiting period) from the original or primary treating physician which reflects the absence, elimination or adequate control of the condition which is causing DMV scrutiny.

You can fill out the medical evaluation online, print it to provide to the relevant original or main treating physicians, then be sure to get it back directly from your doctor(s) to complete yourself with supporting materials and send to a Sonoma County DUI lawyer for review. You or your local Santa Rosa DUI lawyer should generally review the report prior to use at an informal interview or formal hearing in Santa Rosa in order to ensure the timing is right and that the evaluation is fair and consistent. This type of DUI attorney review of the doctor's comments may often prevent an unnecessary continuing suspension if the form was completed inaccurately or illegibly by the doctor.

It can take weeks to get the form completed, and schedule a Santa Rosa DMV hearing, so it is usually important to start this process as soon as you become aware of formal DMV proceedings. Click here for the form: DS 326 Driver Medical Evaluation.

The Hearing

Typically you will receive a notice of reexamination stating that you have an opportunity to present evidence as to your ability to drive. Usually it is imperative that you respond within the required time by asking for a hearing in Santa Rosa and then presenting any evidence, including the proper, fully completed DMV medical forms, to show your condition does not affect safe driving. A local Sonoma County DUI lawyer can help you through this process with the least possible stress.

You may be denied reinstatement of your license if there has not been adequate time or information to evaluate your condition. If you are denied reinstatement at the Santa Rosa or Petaluma hearing office, typically you may request a new hearing or interview once adequate time has elapsed and you have new or more responsive or complete evaluations which show your condition no longer affects safe driving.

Typically if the written medical evaluation is satisfactory to the Santa Rosa DMV, you will be required to take a special drive test and/or written test to confirm your driving and cognitive skills.

Alternatives to a complete suspension may be appropriate and worth exploring with a Sonoma DUI lawyer, such as a restriction to daytime or limited driving (see Vehicle Code Section 12818).

Click here on DMV Physical & Mental Guidelines for additional information on what the Santa Rosa DMV considers in these types of hearings. Many conditions and considerations are listed.

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Dave Jake Schwartz is an Honors Graduate from UC Hastings Law School, and UC Davis, former Federal Judicial Clerk, and Nationally Qualified Sobriety Tests Practitioner. Member of the California Bar for 30 years, Sonoma County resident for over 20 years, handles only DUI cases, including thousands of Sonoma County DUIs and DMV hearings: first/multiple offenders, minors, seniors, tourists, undocumented immigrants, veterans, probation violations, suspended license, public intoxication, open container, minor in possession, child endangerment, collisions, hit and run, evading, resisting arrest.

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Dave Jake Schwartz