California DMV Driver License Suspension for Marijuana Use

Why is the California DMV Concerned About Marijuana Use?  The California Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) is the “All Powerful” government agency entrusted with the authority to grant driver licenses to those people who qualify.  What many Californians don’t realize is that the DMV is equally empowered to strip a person of that same driving privilege if they believe good cause exists.

Recently, a “hot button” issue for the DMV are drivers who possesses or use marijuana.  The conventional thinking within the department is that, although often legal to use or possess, marijuana has many of the same impairing effects that occur with the use of alcohol.  A person who is impaired by the use of marijuana may be just as dangerous as a drunk driver.

Whether a driver is impaired by alcohol, prescription medications or illegal drugs, the fact is anything that impairs the cognitive functioning of the brain can create a danger to other drivers or property.  For this reason, the DMV takes a dim view of the use of marijuana.

Also, current law prevents the DMV from administratively suspending or revoking a person’s driving privilege because they have certain levels of Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) in the bloodstream.  The power to suspend or revoke a driver license based upon certain levels of THC in the blood would require the State Legislature to pass Administrative Per Se Laws that identify the Blood/THC concentration required to automatically constitute impairment.  Currently there is no science that supports such a presumption.  Because of this, the DMV’s hands are often tied.


How Does the DMV Suspend a Driver License for Marijuana Use?  Not to be outwitted, the DMV has developed a policy to investigate any driver accused of using marijuana to determine if there is a “Physical or Mental” necessity to withdraw the driving privilege.

California Vehicle Code section 12806(a) determines:

            “The department may refuse to issue to, or renew a driver’s license of, any person who is rendered incapable of safely operating a motor vehicle because of alcoholism, excessive and chronic use of any alcoholic beverages,  or addiction to, or habitual use of, any drug.

California Vehicle Code section 12818(a) determines:

            “Upon receipt of a request for reexamination and presentation of a legible copy of a notice of reexamination by a person issued the notice pursuant to Section 21061, the department shall reexamine the person’s qualification to operate a motor vehicle…..”

As a general rule, the DMV will be alerted to a driver’s use of marijuana by a “referral”  prepared by a law enforcement officer.  It often occurs that during a law enforcement contact, police officers find a driver to have used or possess marijuana, but they are prohibited from taking any action because of the current status of our laws.  Frustrated, police officers will often “refer” a driver to the DMV for reexamination to ensure the driver’s use of marijuana does not constitute a danger to the public.  Using the Law Enforcement Referral as a means to open an investigation, the DMV will send a driver a “Notice of Reexamination Appointment” which draws the driver into the DMV’s clutches.  If the driver refuses to participate in the reexamination process the department will peremptorily suspend the driver license until the driver complies.

How Can I Protect Myself at a Reexamination for Marijuana Use?  If you have received a “Notice of Reexamination Appointment” in the mail from the California DMV you must understand two things:

  • The DMV fully intends to withdraw your privilege to drive, and;
  • You must act quickly to prepare.

The DMV’s reexamination process really should be called the DMV’s investigation process because that is what they are doing.  The DMV will use the reexamination as a means to determine if there is any means for them to steal your driver license.  Commonly, the DMV reexamination process may include:

  • The filing of medical documents
  • Taking a written test
  • Taking a vision test
  • Participating in an interview
  • Taking a driving test

The hearing officer assigned to your case has absolute discretion as to how many of these steps you must take.  Make no mistake; they are not there to help you or to be kind.

If you have received a “Notice of Reexamination Appointment” or a “Notice of Suspension/Revocation” you should telephone the DMV Defense Experts at California Drivers Advocates (CDA).  We are an organization devoted exclusively to defending drivers at all forms of DMV License Suspension Hearings.  We have seen and fought against every dirty little trick the DMV will pull.  Let us put our training and experience to work for you.

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About the Author:

Rob Collier
Mr. Collier served with distinction as a Law Enforcement Specialist with the United States Air Force and received an honorable discharge. He is a graduate of the United States Air Force Security Police Academy and the United States Army Police Investigators School. While stationed at Edwards Air Force Base, Mr. Collier was one of the first Security Police Specialists to provide “close‐in” security for Space Shuttle Missions when that program was new. Mr. Collier is a Distinguished Graduate of the Los Angeles County Sheriff Academy (Class 228) and the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Special Weapons and Tactics School (SWAT). He received specialized training in basic accident investigation and determining speed from skids at the San Bernardino Sheriff Academy. For nearly 15 years, Mr. Collier was the Operations Officer for one of the most prominent specialty DUI law firms in the country. Reporting directly to that firm’s owner, Mr. Collier directed the day to day operations of DUI attorneys, investigators, expert witnesses and support staff. He developed the firm’s “white glove” policy of client care that is now the hallmark of our company. He has been involved in the preparation, investigation, and presentation of literally thousands of DMV administrative hearings throughout Southern California. Receiving hands on training from defense attorneys, retired DMV hearing officers, and some of the best scientific experts in the field, Mr. Collier possesses a unique level of experience; making him a true expert in the field of Administrative Advocacy. Mr. Collier is our Chief Advocate and available to represent clients in all categories of DMV hearings in California. If your case is assigned to one of our other professional advocates, Mr. Collier will personally review and supervise each case. He is accessible to each and every one of our clients.