3/12/20 UPDATE: Due to COVID-19, all DMV hearings will be done over the telephone. People who prefer in-person hearings may request them, but they will be delayed indefinitely.
A Driver Medical Evaluation (DME) is a medical document or questionnaire. The DMV uses it to evaluate a driver’s medical and physical health as it bears on fitness to drive. The Department can suspend a person’s driving privileges if the DME shows ill health. “Ill health” means the driver’s medical conditions make him or her unsafe to operate a motor vehicle.
When used properly, affected drivers, and not just the DMV, can also use a DME to:
- show the Department that despite a physical or mental condition,
- the person is still a safe driver and license suspension is not warranted.
Note that medical conditions often lead to elderly drivers losing their licenses. But drivers of any age can lose their driving privileges because of medical conditions such as:
- Lapse of consciousness,
- Alzheimer’s disease,
- Narcolepsy, and
But the DMV can suspend a license for any medical condition that adversely affects someone’s driving ability.
Note that if the DMV labels a driver as unsuitable to drive because of health, he/she can:
- request a DMV hearing, and
- attempt to challenge the Department’s decision.
Our DMV hearing attorneys will highlight the following in this article:
- 1. What is a Driver Medical Evaluation?
- 2. How does the evaluation work?
- 3. Does a condition have to be related to driving for a suspension?
- 4. Does the DMV have the authority to suspend a license because of health?
- 5. Can a driver challenge a license suspension because of a medical condition?
1. What is a Driver Medical Evaluation?
A DME is a medical document that the California DMV uses to:
- evaluate a driver’s medical and physical health, and
- do so, in relation to that person’s safe driving ability.1
In using the DME, the DMV can suspend a person’s driving privileges if:
- the Department finds that the person suffers from a mental/physical condition, and
- that condition poses a risk to the safety of other drivers.2
The evaluation itself is a five-page document. The first page requires the driver to complete a brief health history. The remainder of the form requires the driver’s physician to provide information on:
- treatment, and
- level of functional impairment, if any.
Specific sections of the form address:
- lapses of consciousness,
- dementia, and
- cognitive impairments.
Some conditions that result in a driver’s license suspension include:
- Lapse of consciousness
- Alzheimer’s disease,
- Diabetes, and
- Macular degeneration.
But any condition that affects someone’s driving ability can lead to a suspended license.
2. How does the evaluation work?
A DME is used in one of two ways. First, the DMV sends the evaluation form to a driver. It asks:
- the driver to complete the first page of the form, and
- the motorist’s physician to complete the remainder of the form.
The driver is then asked to return the form to the DMV. The Department reviews the document and then decides whether to impose a license suspension.
The second way a DME is used is when a subject driver obtains an evaluation on his or her own.
The motorist then takes it to the person’s doctor for:
- an examination, and
- a completion of the form.
The driver then submits the document to a hearing officer at a DMV hearing. In this method, the DME is used as direct evidence showing an ability to drive safely.
3. Does a condition have to be related to driving for a suspension?
The DMV cannot suspend a person’s driving privileges for just any medical condition.
The Department can only do so if there is a nexus between the condition and safe driving.3 A nexus just means that the condition is causing a loss in driving ability.
The DMV considers the following factors to see if this connection exists:
- the nature and extent of the medical condition,
- whether the condition is temporary or permanent,
- the number of miles the person drives,
- the time of day the person drives, and
- the area in which the motorist travels.4
4. Does the DMV have the authority to suspend a license because of health?
The California Vehicle Code authorizes the department to:
- suspend a person’s driving privileges, and
- do so for reasons relating to physical or mental conditions.5
These laws also allow the Department to investigate a driver and perform a DMV reexamination.6
5. Can a driver challenge a license suspension because of a medical condition?
A driver can challenge a DMV decision to suspend the person’s license. The challenge can happen in one of two ways.
The first, and most effective, is to request a DMV hearing before the suspension takes place.
The Department sends a driver a notice of suspension prior to suspending a license. The subject motorist should then:
- request a hearing (within 10 days of receiving the notice), and
- obtain a DME and have his/her physician complete it after an examination.
This method allows the driver to use the evaluation as direct evidence of safe driving ability.
The second way is for a driver to request a DMV after a suspension takes place.
Here, the driver attends a hearing and has to convince the hearing officer that:
- despite a medical condition,
- the motorist can still safely drive a vehicle.
To help accomplish this goal, the motorist can submit the following as evidence:
- medical records,
- statements from friends and family,
- test results (e.g., vision or driving), and
- any relevant videos.
For additional help…
For additional guidance or to discuss your case with a DMV hearing attorney, we invite you to contact us at Shouse Law Group.
- DMV Website – Driver Medical Evaluation DS 326.
- See same. See also DMV Website – Physical and Mental Evaluation Guidelines.
- DMV Website – Physical and Mental Evaluation Guidelines.
- See same.
- See same. See also Vehicle Code 12806 and 12806.
- Vehicle Code 12814.