If you have been arrested for an alcohol-related DUI in Washington State, your drivers license will be administratively suspended automatically 30 days from the date of arrest (except in cases where a blood test was administered by the officer), UNLESS the you submit a request for an administrative hearing.
This license suspension will happen independent of any criminal case or charges that you may face. It is a separate process and a separate hearing. If you want to challenge this DUI license suspension, then you need to request a Washington DOL hearing.
Requesting a Washington DOL Hearing
Time is of the essence when requesting a Washington DOL hearing. Beginning January 1, 2019, you must mail your Washington DOL hearing request form and the $375.00 fee (or waiver of hearing fee form if indigent) within seven (7) days from arrest. Otherwise, you lose your right to a hearing. The arresting officer should have given you the paperwork to request a hearing, but the form can be found at www.dol.wa.gov if you never received it. I encourage almost every client to request a Washington DOL hearing.
If you request an administrative hearing by the deadline, the Dept. of Licensing will not suspend your license until the hearing is held and a decision issued. If the process takes longer than 30 days, the DOL will extend your driving privileges accordingly.
The Washington DOL Hearing
Once a hearing is requested, the Washington Department of Licensing will assign your case to a Hearing Officer and send you notice of the date and time of your Washington DOL hearing. These proceedings take place telephonically and no witnesses attend, unless the you (or your attorney) subpoena a witness to appear (also via telephone). The Hearing Officer will have a copy of the police report, which he/she will consider as evidence in deciding whether the suspension should be imposed.
The Washington DOL hearing is limited to challenging the circumstances of the arrest, and will be based upon the police reports and any other evidence offered only. The Hearing Officer is not permitted to consider personal issues (e.g., lack of criminal history, the impact of a license suspension, etc). The legal questions that can be challenged include the validity of the traffic stop, the lawfulness of the arrest, the advisement of implied consent warnings and the administration of the breath test or circumstances of refusal. The Dept. of Licensing has provided a decent Washington DOL hearing guide if you want more information.
The hearing examiner rarely makes a decision immediately at the end of the hearing. They are required to inform you of their decision in writing. Different hearing examiners have different timelines for this; some take a few days, others take several months. But you usually can expect a decision within a month.
Washington DOL Hearing Consequences
If you are on the winning side of the decision, then your administrative license suspension will be canceled. If you lose, the length of your suspension will depend upon the number of prior offenses and whether you took the breath test or refused. A detailed explanation can be found on our Washington DOL Penalties page. The good news if you lose is that there is a grace period before your suspension goes into effect that will allow you to get a Washington ignition interlock license if you so chose.
Contemplating the loss of driving privileges is overwhelming for most of us, and navigating the maze of Department of Licensing rules and regulations is equally daunting. While it is important to be realistic about the Department’s power to impose these penalties, I firmly believe that there are very appropriate and important challenges that can and should be raised against any potential DUI license suspension.
I am committed to helping you find solutions to deal with license consequences. To discuss your individual situation, please call me at 206-849-0519.