The California DMV may revoke or suspend a driver’s license due to epilepsy, seizures, or other consciousness disorders. But the DMV may only do so if the license-holder’s driving ability is actually negatively affected by his/her medical condition.
Note that the DMV typically learns that a driver is epileptic by a report from the driver’s physician. The following people can also inform the DMV of a motorist’s epileptic condition:
- concerned citizens or family members,
- law enforcement, and/or
- a judge.
Once the DMV is aware of a driver’s condition, the driver can still try to keep his/her license by requesting a DMV reexamination hearing. During this hearing, the driver can present evidence that he/she can drive safely despite having epilepsy.
Upon completion of the hearing, the DMV can take the following actions:
- suspend or revoke the person’s driver’s license,
- place the driver on medical probation,
- issue the driver a restricted license, or
- allow the driver to keep his/her license.
Our California criminal defense attorneys will highlight the following in this article:
- 1. Can the DMV revoke a person’s driver’s license because of epilepsy?
- 2. How does the DMV learn that a driver has epilepsy?
- 3. Can a person with epilepsy keep their license?
- 4. What happens if the DMV decides a person cannot drive safely?
1. Can the DMV revoke a person’s driver’s license because of epilepsy?
Yes. California’s Department of Motor Vehicles can revoke or suspend a person’s driver’s license if they suffer from epilepsy, seizures, or a lapse of consciousness. However, the DMV can only do so if the driver’s ability to operate a motor vehicle is negatively affected.1
Epilepsy is a central nervous system disorder in which brain activity becomes abnormal, causing seizures or periods of unusual behavior and sometimes loss of awareness.2
Most people with epilepsy will experience one or both of the following:
- primary generalized seizures, and/or
- partial seizures.
While the first type of seizure involves both sides of the brain, a partial seizure only involves one limited area of the brain.
As to the revocation or suspension of an epileptic person’s license, the DMV’s reasoning is to protect the safety of motorists. If a motorist suffers a seizure or lapse of consciousness while driving, he/she poses a safety risk to him/herself and others on the road.3
2. How does the DMV learn that a driver has epilepsy?
The most common way the DMV can learn about a driver’s epilepsy is from a report by the driver’s physician, particularly his/her neurologist.
Under California driving law, doctors must report to the DMV any medical condition that can lead to a lapse of consciousness or interfere with someone’s ability to drive a motor vehicle safely.
Other people who may report an epileptic driver to the DMV include:
- other medical professionals and physical and mental health care providers,
- law enforcement officers,
- judges, and
- concerned family members, friends, or other private citizens.
As to concerned citizens, they can report an epileptic driver by filling out a “DMV request for a driver reexamination” form and submitting it to the DMV.
An epileptic driver can also report him/herself to the DMV. For example, a driver may disclose a condition of epilepsy in response to questions on a driver’s license application.
3. Can a person with epilepsy keep their license?
Yes. A licensed driver who has been reported to the DMV for epilepsy has the right to a DMV reexamination. Another term for this is a lapse of consciousness hearing.
During the hearing, the driver can present evidence to a DMV hearing officer that shows he/she can still drive safely despite being prone to seizures.
Some evidence that can show a driver’s ability to drive safely includes:
- a clean, safe driving record going back several years,
- a driver’s own testimony regarding his/her epileptic condition,
- medical records showing medical examinations and the steps a driver is taking to control his/her condition, and
- testimony from family, friends, and doctors who treat the driver to show that he/she is able to drive safely.
Upon hearing the above evidence, the DMV can allow an epileptic driver to keep his/her license if it determines that the person can drive safely.
Note that the DMV will not always require an administrative hearing following lapses of consciousness. In some cases, it may only require a “DMV driver medical evaluation” (“DME”) and medical history from the driver’s doctor.
Once the DMV receives a driver’s DME and medical history, it will then decide on the person’s ability to drive and revocation/suspension of the person’s license.
4. What happens if the DMV decides a person cannot drive safely?
The DMV has many options for restricting epileptic drivers. Not all of them involve revoking or suspending the person’s driving privileges.
If the DMV determines that a driver’s seizure disorder negatively affects his or her ability to drive safely, the DMV may:
- place the driver on “medical probation,” which allows the driver to keep his/her license subject to certain conditions (such as submitting ongoing medical reports or reexaminations),
- issue the driver a “limited-term license” for one or two years,
- issue the driver a restricted license that contains restrictions on where and when the driver may drive,
- suspend the driver’s license for a certain period of time, or
- revoke the driver’s driving privileges (if it believes the condition is permanent and there is no safe way for the driver to drive).4
As to medical probation, there are two medical probations that are appropriate for drivers with epilepsy and lapse of consciousness disorders, Medical Probation Type II and Type III.5
Medical Probation Type II is for drivers who have achieved three to five months of control over seizures and lapse of consciousness. The driver is required to authorize their treating physician to complete the Driver Medical Evaluation form and submit it to DMV on a prescribed basis.6
Medical Probation Type III is for drivers who have achieved 6 or more months of control, but due to contributing factors there is a slight possibility of another seizure or lapse of consciousness. Medical probation Type III requires the driver to report, in writing, on a regular basis to the DMV on the status of their disorder.7
For additional help…
For additional guidance or to discuss your case with a criminal defense lawyer, we invite you to contact our law firm at the Shouse Law Group. Our attorneys provide both free consultations and legal advice you can trust.