License Suspension- Seizures & Epilepsy

License Suspension Seizures

The following discussion, while focused on epilepsy, applies to anyone who has suffered a license suspension due to seizures.  License suspension seizures and epilepsy are a common ground for the revocation or suspension of your license in California.

The good news is with control, your license can be easily returned to you.

License Suspension Epilepsy?

Epilepsy is a brain disorder in which clusters of nerve cells, or neurons, in the brain sometimes signal abnormally. In epilepsy, the normal pattern of neuronal activity becomes disturbed, causing strange sensations, emotions, and behavior or sometimes convulsions, muscle spasms, and loss of consciousness. Epilepsy is a disorder with many possible causes. Anything that disturbs the normal pattern of neuron activity – from illness to brain damage to abnormal brain development – can lead to seizures. Epilepsy may develop because of an abnormality in brain wiring, an imbalance of nerve signaling chemicals called neurotransmitters, or some combination of these factors. Having a seizure does not necessarily mean that a person has epilepsy. Only when a person has had two or more seizures is he or she considered to have epilepsy. EEGs and brain scans are common diagnostic test for epilepsy.

Is there any treatment?

Once epilepsy is diagnosed, it is important to begin treatment as soon as possible. For about 80 percent of those diagnosed with epilepsy, seizures can be controlled with modern medicines and surgical techniques. Some antiepiletic drugs can interfere with the effectiveness of oral contraceptives. In 1997, the FDA approved the vagus nerve stimulator for use in people with seizures that are not well-controlled by medication.

What is the prognosis?

Most people with epilepsy lead outwardly normal lives. While epilepsy cannot currently be cured, for some people it does eventually go away. Most seizures do not cause brain damage.

What research is being done?

Scientists are studying potential antiepileptic drugs with goal of enhancing treatment for epilepsy. Scientists continue to study how neurotransmitters interact with brain cells to control nerve firing and how non-neuronal cells in the brain contribute to seizures. One of the most-studied neurotransmitters is GABA, or gamma-aminobutryic acid. Researchers are working to identify genes that may influence epilepsy. This information may allow doctors to prevent epilepsy or to predict which treatments will be most beneficial. Doctors are now experimenting with several new types of therapies for epilepsy, including transplanting fetal pig neurons into the brains of patients to learn whether cell transplants can help control seizures, transplanting stem cells, and using a device that could predict seizures up to 3 minutes before they begin. Researchers are continually improving MRI and other brain scans. Studies have show that in some case, children may experience fewer seizures if they maintain a strict diet – called the ketogenic diet – rich in fats and low in carbohydrates.

License Suspension Epilepsy-  DMV Epilepsy Laws (a short review)

DMV epilepsy laws restricting the right of epileptics to drive have eased up considerably over the years. Only a few states prohibit epileptics from driving. Fortunately, California is not one of them.

California Vehicle Code Section 14250 gives the DMV the authority to place your driving right (they refer to it as a “privilege” but the Courts have held it is a “right” that cannot be taken away without due process of law) on probation in lieu of suspension or revocation. A medical probation allows the DMV to monitor your medical condition on an ongoing basis.

There are two medical probations that apply to epileptics or people with other medical conditions that will cause a lapse of consciousness- Medical Probation Type II and Type III.

If you are placed on medical probation, you will be permitted to continue driving. Medical probation is only to be used according to DMV policies when you have maintained control over your condition for at least three months.

Type II Probation

Type II Medical probation is for drivers who have achieved three to five months of control. You are required to authorize your physician to complete the Driver Medical Evaluation (form DS326) and submit it to the Department on a prescribed basis.

The main factors that the DMV takes into consideration in determining to place you on Type II probation include, but is not limited to:

  • Seizure type
  • Seizure manifestations
  • Seizure, medical and lifestyle history
  • The seizure-free period prior to the last episode.

Type III Probation

According to DMV Guidelines, Type III probation is for drivers who have achieved six or more months of control, but due to contributing factors there is the slight possibility of another seizure. Type III Probation requires you to report, in writing, on a regular basis to the DMV on the status of your disorder. The Medical Probation Reporting form (DS346) is the form that you must use and must be signed under penalty of perjury. The decision to place you on Type III Probation is based on the same factors as with Type II including, but not limited to:

  • Seizure type
  • Seizure manifestations
  • Seizure, medical and lifestyle history
  • The seizure-free period prior to the last episode.

Medical Probation Type III is considered self-monitoring. According to DMV Guidelines, the major reliability factor that they will consider is your likelihood of complying honestly. As such, Type III Probation will not be given if you have exhibited past evidence of:

  • Noncompliance
  • Withholding information from the DMV or from your doctor
  • Inconsistent statements

No Probation

No probation is needed for drivers who have achieved six or more months of control and there are no coexisting medication conditions that would aggravate the driver’s seizures or impair the driver’s ability to safely operate a motor vehicle.

The department has the authority under Vehicle Code Section 14251 to terminate or modify the conditions of probation whenever good cause exists. If it appears that a driver’s lapse of consciousness disorder has become unstable or it is suspected that the information reported is fraudulent, the driver will be requested to have his/her physician complete a Driver Medical Evaluation. If necessary, a reexamination will be scheduled or an immediate suspension of the driving privilege imposed.

Don’t Surrender Your Rights!

Most epileptics are safe drivers if they take their medication and comply honestly with California’s Motor Vehicle Laws.

Before you attend a DMV Hearing take the following actions:

  • Driving in the State of California is not a “privilege”. It is an important property right and you cannot be deprived of that right without due process of law. For years the DMV has been telling us that driving is a privilege, not a right. However, the Supreme Court of California has held, as a matter of law, that driving is an important property right which cannot be taken away from you without due process of law.
  • DMV officers know very little about the medical conditions that they assess. There is no substitute to having a competent expert testify on your behalf at a DMV hearing. If you attend without an expert, you will almost always lose your case. With an expert who has experience in handling these hearings your chances of winning increase dramatically.
  • Unlike most DUIs, you not only can have your license suspended, but it can be permanently revoked if your medical condition is considered too dangerous for you to drive safely.
  • A revocation of your driver’s license needn’t be permanent. Even if your license has been previously revoked you can have it reinstalled if you are able to demonstrate that you can drive safely.
  • Always present your case in writing, and tape record the hearing (which you have a right to do). This creates a record for an appeal if you lose and discourages over-enthusiastic hearing officers from ruling against you in any case.
  • Look forward, not backward. Your goal in your hearing should usually be to focus on the future, not the past. With only rare exceptions, it does not benefit for you to argue the facts of your condition with a police officer or the hearing officer, (my case was one of these exceptions) but rather to demonstrate that you have a plan for the future that will help ensure that you can drive safely.
  • Never rely on the opinion of a single doctor. Always get a second opinion, and involve your lawyer when it comes to retaining that expert.
  • Research you condition and how the DMV regards it before you go to the hearing.
  • Bring a lawyer with you to the hearing. Hearing officers tend to follow procedures more carefully when they know that a competent attorney is watching them when they render their decision. Without an attorney you are likely to lose your case (and your license.) Your attorney will also be able to help plead your case for you, and help you to avoid the pitfalls that most unrepresented drivers fall into.