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 lapse of consciousness hearing is when a driver challenges a DMV decision to suspend his/her driver's license because of a lapse of consciousness. The DMV can suspend a person's license because of a physical or mental condition that hinders his or her ability to drive safely.
The goal at these hearings is for the driver to show that any medical conditions are stable. The driver also wants to show that he/she is a safe driver. These goals are accomplished via the driver using medical records and witness testimony.
California law says that a “lapse of consciousness” is a reduction in alertness or responsiveness. Examples of conditions that may cause these events are:
- Alzheimer's disease, and
The law requires all doctors to:
- report the identity of any person the physician has diagnosed as having suffered a lapse of consciousness, and
- make this report to the DMV.
Our California criminal defense attorneys will highlight the following in this article:
- 1. What is a lapse of consciousness hearing?
- 2. How can a person win a lapse of consciousness hearing?
- 3. What is medical probation?
- 4. What is a lapse of consciousness?
- 5. Are doctors required to report these events to the DMV?
1. What is a lapse of consciousness hearing?
- a driver challenges the DMV's decision to suspend or revoke his/her license, and
- the DMV made its decision due to the driver's lapse of consciousness.1
Note that the DMV is entitled to suspend or revoke a person's driving privileges if he/she has suffered a lapse of consciousness or control.
The reasoning is that the event may show signs of a greater or more serious:
- physical, or
- mental condition.
The fear is that this condition could cause a horrific traffic accident.
If the DMV issues an “Order of Suspension/Revocation” because of this event, then:
- the subject driver can request a DMV hearing, and
- the driver can challenge the DMV's decision to suspend or revoke the license.2
A driver requesting this hearing must do so within 14 days of receiving the DMV's Order.
If no hearing is requested, then the driver's license will remain as:
- suspended, or
2. How can a person win a lapse of consciousness hearing?
A driver has to accomplish three goals to win a lapse of consciousness hearing. These are:
- show the DMV that any past lapse of consciousness has been treated,
- prove that the driver is stable with no ongoing medical concerns, and
- demonstrate that the motorist is a skilled and safe driver.
Proving these tells the DMV that:
- the driver has the physical and mental fitness to drive, and
- the motorist poses no safety risk to other drivers.
Drivers accomplish their goals at these hearings using:
- medical records, and
- witness testimony.
Medical records mostly come from providers or doctors that have treated the driver. Records may also include:
- sworn declarations from family and friends,
- that show the driver is able to safely operate a vehicle.
Witness testimony largely comes from the driver. The motorist testifies to inform the DMV of:
- any past lapse of consciousness episodes,
- treatment for these events,
- any tools used in rehabilitation, and
- his ability to drive safely.
Note that a driver can be represented by a skilled defense attorney at these hearings. Representation is always recommended to help restore the motorist's driving privileges.
3. What is medical probation?
The DMV has the authority to place a person's driving privilege on probation in lieu of:
- suspension, or
A medical probation allows the department to monitor the driver's medical condition.
There are two medical probations that are appropriate for drivers with lapse of consciousness disorders. These are:
- Medical Probation Type II, and
- Medical Probation Type III.4
Drivers can continue to drive if placed on either probation. A medical probation is only to be used when:
- control of a lapse of consciousness disorder has been achieved, and
- it has been achieved for at least three months.5
Medical probation Type II is for drivers who have achieved three to five months of control.6
Medical probation Type III is for:
- drivers who have achieved six or more months of control, but
- due to contributing factors there is a slight possibility of another seizure.7
4. What is a lapse of consciousness?
California law says that a lapse of consciousness means those medical conditions that involve:
- a loss of consciousness or a marked reduction of alertness to external stimuli,
- the inability to perform one or more activities of daily living, and
- the impairment of the sensory motor functions used to operate a motor vehicle.8
Some common physical and mental conditions that may cause a lapse of consciousness are:
- Seizure disorders,
- Alzheimer's disease,
- Sleep apnea
- Brain tumors,
- Parkinson's disease, and
- alcohol and drug use.9
5. Are doctors required to report these events to the DMV?
Health and Safety Code 103900 requires doctors to report these events to the DMV.10
In particular, a doctor or physician has to report:
- the name, date of birth, and address of every patient at least 14 years of age or older,
- whom the physician and surgeon have diagnosed as,
- having a case of a disorder characterized by lapses of consciousness.
The statute says that medical personnel must report this information “immediately” to the DMV.11
Note that a physician following this law will not be subject to the following for the reporting:
- criminal liability, or
- civil liability.12
For additional help...
For additional guidance or to discuss your case with a criminal defense attorney, we invite you to contact us at Shouse Law Group.
For information on similar laws in Nevada, please see our article on: “Can My Nevada Driver's License Be Suspended for a Medical Condition?”
DMV website - Driver Safety Information Lapses of Consciousness Disorders.
California Health and Safety Code 103900.