In a previous blog, I Got a DUI, Now What – Part I, we discussed the DUI court process in Washington State. In this blog, we address the parallel process for individuals accused of DUIs – the administrative process with the Department of Licensing.
What's this “Department of Licensing Hearing”?
Here are the basics:
· DEADLINE: 20 days to request a Hearing
· $375 fee
· Hearing in 60 days
· If lose, can drive 24/7 with IIL
· If win, do NOT lose your license, do NOT need SR-22 insurance, and do NOT need IIL
Why does WA have DOL Hearings in DUI or Physical Control cases? What are my rights?
If you were arrested in Washington State for DUI / DWI or Physical Control, you will be facing a suspension of your driver's license in addition to any charges filed against you in court. Washington State, like many jurisdictions, has an “implied consent law”. This means that if you drive in Washington State, you are making two promises to the government:
· First, you promise that you will NOT refuse to take a breath or blood test if lawfully asked.
· Second, you promise that if you take a breath or blood test, your alcohol level will NOT be .08 or higher.
If you break either of these promises, your license or privilege to drive will be suspended or revoked through an administrative action by the Department of Licensing (DOL). You have a right to challenge the DOL's action at a Hearing, but the burden is on you to request a Hearing. You have 20 days from the date of your arrest to request this Hearing. It is crucial that you do not miss this deadline.
How do my DOL case and my Court case affect each other?
Your DOL and Court processes are separate and do not affect each other. Many drivers are confused by the fact that the license suspension action by the DOL happens independently of any criminal charges for DUI or physical control. This means your license may be taken away from you by the WA Department of Licensing even if you are never charged with a crime in District or Municipal court. While this may not seem fair, courts have repeatedly upheld this law.
“The DOL Hearing is expensive. What's the point of requesting it if I'm likely to lose anyway?”
You may be wondering if it's worth requesting this Hearing. We say absolutely! It is impossible to tell ahead of time who will win and who will not. While they are difficult to win and it feels like the deck is stacked against the drivers, many people do win these Hearings. The benefits of winning a DOL Hearing far outweigh the costs.
What are the benefits of requesting a hearing?
· We get a copy of the police report to review and assist in any investigation of your case.
· We have the opportunity to subpoena and question the police officer under oath about his or her contact with you at the time of your arrest.
· Even if you lose the hearing, you can still apply for an Ignition Interlock License (IIL) and will be able to continue driving 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, with IIL.
· You could win the hearing! This would mean avoiding loss of your license, SR-22 insurance, and the need to apply for an Ignition Interlock License.
What are the mechanics of the DOL Hearing?
The Hearing itself typically takes place over the telephone, though in rare circumstances it can take place in person. You are allowed, but not required, to be present at the Hearing. At the Hearing the Department of Licensing has the burden of proving the case against you by a preponderance of evidence, and it must establish a series of issues to take any action against your license. These issues include:
· Were you lawfully placed under arrest?
· Were you properly advised of the Implied Consent Warnings?
· Was the breath or blood test administered according to the Washington State law and the Washington State Toxicologist Rules?
If the DOL proves the case, you will lose your license for 90 days, 1 year, or 2 years depending on whether it's a 1st or a 2nd offense DUI or a refusal.
Does the DOL make its decision at the Hearing?
The Hearing Officers do not typically make a decision at the Hearing. The Hearing Officer will review the evidence presented, the arguments made by your attorney, and any relevant law and then issue a written decision at a later date. The majority of Hearing Officers make their decision in 2-6 weeks from the date of the Hearing. Your license remains valid pending any decision. If the ruling is in your favor, there is no license suspension and the DOL's action is dismissed. If the ruling is against you, you will be notified of the date your license suspension will begin -- typically in about 2 weeks from the notice.
What happens if I lose?
f the DOL rules against you and sustains the license suspension or revocation, you will have the option of either applying for the Ignition Interlock License or appealing the DOL's decision to the Superior Court. Read about the IIL on our Web site and stay tuned for future blogs!
Please contact us if you would need help! We can be reached at 206-467-2607 or [email protected]. We are located at 720 3rd Ave., Suite 2015, Seattle, WA 98104. The Law Offices of Geoffrey Burg, LLC has more than three decades of combined experience, and our attorneys have helped hundreds of people in Washington State who are in a similar situation to you successfully fight their charges in the courts and with the Department of Licensing. Call us to schedule a free consultation.