CASCADE Co., Mont. - A local woman who's new to town reached out to us explaining some drama she experienced when trying to get a new license at the Department of Transportation's Cascade County Treasurer's Office on Monday.
Colleen Lemmon says she was just trying to do the right thing and update her license and license plates within the 60-day time frame since she's just moved from out of state.
She went into the office without wearing a mask and that's when the trouble started, "Her exact words were 'Because you said that you don't wear a mask we need to know exactly why you won't wear a mask, therefore you must go to the doctor before you can get your license. And I said 'Well that doesn't make sense.' I was pretty hot. Pretty frustrated," said Lemmon, explaining how she felt tricked into providing an honest answer.
Department of Justice authorities say some people are running into this problem simply because of the pandemic.
According to Sarah Garcia, Administrator for Montana's Department of Justice Motor Vehicle Division, "The disclosure of the medical condition and the mask wearing are two completely separate issues here."
Her colleague, MT DOJ General Council Michele Snowberger, says once any personal health details are shared, the agency must take appropriate action under Montana state law as defined below by the DOJ:
Montana Code Annotated 2019, Title 61 Motor Vehicles, Chapter 5 Driver's Licenses: 61-5-105:
"Who may not be licensed: The department may not issue a license under this chapter to a person...(7) who has any condition characterized by lapse of consciousness or control, either temporary or prolonged, that is or may become chronic. However, the department may, in its discretion, issue a license to an otherwise qualified person suffering from a condition if the afflicted person's attending physician, licensed physician assistant, or advanced practice registered nurse, as defined in 37-8-102, attests in writing that the person's condition has stabilized and would not be likely to interfere with that person's ability to operate a motor vehicle safely and, if a commercial driver's license is involved, the person is physically qualified to operate a commercial motor vehicle under applicable state or federal regulations."
Apparently, M.D.T. requiring a doctor's note about a disclosed condition is a long-standing law, and "Once we know that information, we know that information and we must act on the information that we're given," said Snowberger.
That means there's a flag on Lemmon's file in their system and she must provide a doctor's note to the Treasurer's Office in order to move forward with getting a new license.
"Before we can issue a license we then have to ask them to take a medical form to their physician to evaluate them to ensure they're fit for driving and cannot impair themselves or impede public safety in any way," said Garcia.
She and Snowberger add, M.D.T. employees will never ask personal questions about a customer's health that isn't visibly noticeable, but Governor Bullock's mask mandate is making people question their operations in the Coronavirus era.
"Perhaps people are having conversations with us that they would normally not have and this is raising awareness about what our daily requirements would be," said Garcia.
According to the Department of Health and Human Services, HIPAA and the 4th and 5th Amendments do not apply to face coverings in business.
You can find a list of common questions at the D.P.H.H.S. website here.
Although her condition does not directly affect her driving ability, Lemmon must now find a specialist to fill out an evaluation, which she says is not highlighted through the state's documents, "This rule is not supported by the paperwork that was given to me; that asks mostly neurological questions or physical-based questions having nothing to do with a lung condition," said Lemmon.
For now she must wait months for her husband's health insurance to kick in before she can get a driver's license, renew her tags, and apply for a job in her new hometown.
Lemmon was also concerned this delay would impede her right to vote in the upcoming Presidential election. Cascade County Elections Administrator Rina Moore says a license is not required for someone who has recently moved to register to vote. Individuals may provide some personal information like social security number and official date of birth documents to participate in the election on November 3rd.