DEPARTMENT OF LICENSING (DOL) ADMINISTRATIVE SANCTIONS
If you have been arrested for an alcohol-related DUI in Washington State based on a breath test reading of .08 or higher or an alleged refusal to take the breath test, your driver's license will automatically be administratively suspended UNLESS the you submit a request for an administrative hearing.
Before administering the breath test, the arresting officer should have provided you with an implied consent notice explaining the law, consequences of a refusing to submit to a breath test and process to request 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. You must mail your Washington DOL hearing request form and the $375.00 fee (or waiver of hearing fee form if indigent) within twenty (20) days from arrest. Otherwise, you lose your right to a hearing. Attorney Pewitt encourages 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 60 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) request a subpoena for 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 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 win your DOL hearing, 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.
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 confusing. While it is important to be realistic about the Department's power to impose these penalties, Pewitt Law firmly believes that there are very appropriate and important challenges that can and should be raised against any potential DUI license suspension.