Case History: California Drivers Advocates was engaged to a represent a client who was being accused of cheating during a written test to renew his/her driver license. Our 90 year old client’s driver license was due for renewal so he/she entered a local DMV Field Office to pick up a Driver Handbook to study in preparation for the written examination that would be required. After receiving the Handbook, he/she decided to simply challenge the test without any preparation. The driver began the testing process and had nearly completed the 18-question test when he/she became stumped by a question regarding a road sign. Acting on complete impulse the driver picked up the Handbook and began thumbing through the manual to locate information. This was done completely without ill will and with no intent to cheat.
A monitoring examiner didn’t see it that way. The Examiner took the test from our client, accused him/her of cheating and referred the driver to the Office of Driver Safety. When the Office of Driver Safety received the referral from the local field office, our client’s driver license was immediately suspended for fraud.
DMV’s Position: The California DMV’s position was crystal clear. If a driver is involved in fraudulent activity while applying for a driver license or the renewal of an existing driver license, the DMV will act immediately to refuse, suspend or revoke the privilege.
It is the DMV’s position that a person who cheats during a written examination must not possess the requisite skills to drive and that it would be dangerous to allow an unqualified driver to operate a motor vehicle.
The California Vehicle Code determines that a person who commits an act of fraud shall not be issued a driver license for one year.
Our Defense: California Drivers Advocates constructed a defense around the reality of who our client was and what had actually occurred. At the age of 90, our client had been safely driving in the State of California for more than 70 years. In those 7 decades of time, our client had not been involved in traffic collisions and had not received any traffic citations. He/she had a demonstrated history of safe driving. Also, because all drivers must renew their driver license every five years, we could demonstrate that our client had renewed his/her driver license at least 14 times without difficulty.
Clearly our client possessed the requisite skills to drive and was caught up in a fraudulent activity suspension as a result of a momentary lapse of judgement. There was nothing nefarious in his/her action when opening the handbook.
While we agreed that our client had actually violated the “Letter of the Law” when opening the handbook during a written test; we successfully argued that the “Spirit of the Law” was not violated. The Legislative Intent of this section of law was to prevent unqualified drivers from operating motor vehicles and our client was clearly qualified.
Outcome: At the conclusion of the Fraudulent Activity Hearing, the DMV Hearing Officer took the matter under submission. Two weeks later, we received the Hearing Officer’s written decision to restore our client to full driving privileges. Clearly the DMV concluded that our client was not only qualified to drive, but that there was no criminal intent in the case.
At 90 years old, our client is 100% self-sufficient. He/she is very active and the driver license provides the necessary freedom to care for him/her. Today our client is enjoying life and driving safely with a valid driver license.
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