Law Articles

Driver's License Suspension for a Medical Condition

One of Bernard’s favorite activities was driving his 1969 Corvette Stingray roadster convertible.  He loved to feel the wind blow through his hair as he drove down scenic country roads.  One Sunday afternoon, Bernard felt dizzy while he was driving.  He suddenly lost consciousness and hit several mailboxes before his Corvette came to rest in a ditch. Thankfully, Bernard was not injured except for a few minor bumps and bruises.  A few weeks later, Bernard lost control of his Corvette in a parking lot and hit several shopping carts.
At the urging of his concerned wife, Bernard consulted with this family doctor.  At the appointment, Bernard admitted that he had experienced dizzy spells for several months.  His doctor told him that it was not safe for him to drive until they determined the cause of his condition.  Bernard immediately objected.  There was no way he would give up driving his beloved Corvette.  He drove away angrily from the doctor’s office.

Several days later, Bernard received a letter from the Ohio Bureau of Motor Vehicles (BMV) requiring him to submit to a physical examination or risk a license suspension.  Bernard was surprised to learn that his doctor notified the BMV that he could not safely operate a vehicle due to a medical condition.

We often take the right to drive for granted.  It is such a basic part of our everyday lives.  But, driving on Ohio’s roadways is a privilege and not a constitutional right.  The state may suspend and revoke licenses for a myriad of reasons.  One reason is a driver’s medical condition.  

The BMV can deny a license to any person who is afflicted with a physical or mental disability or disease that prevents him from exercising reasonable and ordinary control over a motor vehicle.  When there is good cause to believe that a driver is incompetent or otherwise not qualified to be licensed, the BMV must send a written notice to the driver requiring him to submit to a driver's license examination, a physical examination, or both.  If the driver fails to submit to the examinations, his license will be suspended. 
This process is often initiated by a police officer following an accident.  But, it is often initiated by the driver’s doctor by submitting a report to the BMV stating that, in her professional opinion, the driver may be incompetent or otherwise not qualified to operate a motor vehicle safely due to medical reasons.  Any report submitted to the BMV is confidential and does not become a public record. 
The physical examination may be conducted by a physician, physician assistant, a clinical nurse specialist, a certified nurse practitioner, or a certified nurse-midwife.  Depending upon the results of the examination, the BMV may suspend the driver’s license, may permit the driver to retain the license, or may issue certain restrictions against the license.  For example, the BMV may issue a six month restricted license to driver who proves his medical condition is dormant or under effective medical control.

If the license is suspended or restricted for a medical condition in Ohio, the driver may request an administrative hearing through the BMV.  He may be represented by legal counsel and present evidence at the hearing.  The BMV hearing examiner is required to review the suspension in an impartial manner and make an independent ruling based on the evidence presented.  If the suspension is upheld, the driver has the right to appeal the matter further in the local common pleas court.  The judge will then determine whether the decision of the BMV was based upon reliable, substantial and probative evidence. 
The loss of driving privileges is a scary thought.  However, a driver with a medical condition may be putting themselves or others at risk by getting behind the wheel.  The Ohio BMV must carefully balance a driver’s desire to drive against the safety of the public.  If you or a loved-one is faced with a medical suspension, it is best to consult a trusted lawyer to discuss the unique facts and available options.  The attorneys at Laribee & Hertrick. LLP can assist you.

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This article is intended to provide general information about the law. It is not intended to give legal advice.  Readers are urged to seek advice from an attorney regarding their specific issues and rights. To contact an attorney at Laribee & Hertrick, LLP, request more information about our legal services today.
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