There are many moving pieces to be able to answer this question. In Washington, there are multiple ways to have your license suspended as a result of the DUI arrest or a conviction. To know whether you can drive or qualify for the Ignition Interlock License, you need to discuss your unique facts and criminal history with an experienced criminal defense attorney in the area where you were charged with DUI or Physical Control.
Suspension After Arrest
If you were arrest for DUI and the result of your blood test or BAC is .08 percent or higher, this triggers the jurisdiction of the Department of Licensing to suspend your license. This is what we call the administrative suspension. This license suspension is completely separate from anything the court might impose in your criminal case.
In the past, you had 20 days to request a DOL hearing but the law changed and you must act much more quickly. Since 2019, you now have only 7 days to request the DOL hearing. Your request must be postmarked within 7 days of your arrest otherwise you will be automatically suspended. If you have a Washington state license, you can complete the request on License Express (create an account). However, if you have an out of state license, you must mail in the form.
Failure To Request The DOL Hearing
If you do not request the DOL hearing to challenge your suspension, your license will be suspended 30 days from the date of your arrest date. However, if you properly request a hearing date, the suspension will be “on hold” until the DOL hearing examiner rules on your matter. This assumes you properly requested the hearing and you have notice of a hearing date. It is always advisable to check your license express account to make sure you are not already suspended!
he DOL hearing examiners are hired by the DOL so most defense attorneys feel they are not truly impartial. Results suggest that might be the case. For example, the state “win” rate (i.e. you license ends up being suspended) is over 80%. However, if you hire an experienced private DUI defense attorney, you should have better odds because they know the relevant issues to argue. Public defenders cannot argue your DOL hearing because the DOL hearing is a civil matter and state tax dollars used for indigent defense are to be used on criminal matters.
Suspension After Conviction or Plea
Regardless of your administrative suspension (the suspension after an arrest or sustained ruling after a hearing), you can face a suspension from the result of your criminal case. The DOL will tell you that you are suspended 45 days following receipt of evidence of conviction from the court. However, in our experience, nothing happens exactly as DOL states. There are MANY mistakes that occur in this process. In at least 10% of our cases, the court staff will fail to send the documents to DOL or fail to do so in a timely manner.
We also see documents sent to DOL that do not accurately reflect the resolution entered in court. If you notice that you are still not suspended 45 days after the time period in which DOL should have been notified, you have a tough decision to make. We have seen courts fail to send the documents entirely (this is rare and is often when court staff is all new). This is a risk because, even if you think you “got away with it,” there is a chance those documents could be sent much later. Often, people will stop checking their License Express account for a suspension and accidentally drive on a suspended license. This will result in a new criminal charge.
Preparing For The Suspension
The license suspension following a criminal resolution or conviction is very important and also somewhat challenging. If you are not a gambling person (hoping your conviction is not reported to DOL), it’s a good idea to get ready for the suspension such that you know where you want to go for the ignition interlock and you know whether your insurance carrier offers SR22. If DOL is not suspending you but you know they are supposed to, you could also “get it over with” by contacting the clerks office where you were convicted and ask if they sent the relevant documents to DOL. If you hired private defense, these are issues that you should discuss with your attorney prior to taking any action.
If you were already administratively suspended after the DOL hearing, that period of suspension is typically applied as a “credit” to your criminal suspension (this is not always the case). And, when you are ready to have your driving privilege reinstated, be prepared to show proof of all the tasks that you have completed as conditions required under your criminal case. You are not just automatically free to drive after your period of suspension. As you might expect, there are government “hoops” you must jump through prior to having your driving privilege reinstated.
What If I Never Get Charged With DUI?
As noted above, your administrative suspension following an arrest has nothing to do with your criminal case. If you do not request the DOL hearing and your BAC or blood is at a level that creates DOL jurisdiction, you will be suspended.
However, if your DUI is dismissed (the prosecutor might do this if they want to wait for the blood sample results) so the the case can be re-filed later, you may be waiting a long time to find out if you will be suspended as a result of your criminal case. Based on the backlog of cases and blood at the toxicology lab, it is possible that your case is not charged within the statute of limitations. This is rare but it can happen.
More likely (what we are currently seeing on cases based solely on blood draws), is that the criminal case will be filed in approximately 12-18 months after your arrest. So, this can be a big problem unless your mailing address is the same as the one the officer wrote down on the date of arrest. Your summons will be mailed to that address. If you have moved or been deployed since that time, you can hire our firm to monitor the charging decision and let you know before the summons goes to the wrong address and a warrant is issued for your arrest.
What If I Won The DOL Hearing & Criminal Case But I Am Still Suspended
There are other reasons you might become suspended. If you received a traffic infraction (speeding ticket) at the same time as your DUI arrest and you paid it or failed to contest it, there is a chance you have met the quota of infractions that now suspend your license in Washington state. Check out this blog to learn more.
You could also be suspended from another state (Washington gives full faith and credit) or perhaps you have been deemed a Habitual Traffic Offender due to another criminal case or traffic infraction resolution. You must contact the Department of Licensing to know the reason for your suspension. When it comes to license suspensions, DOL is the final arbiter of any issues.
If you are facing a DUI charge or investigation in Kitsap or Thurston counties or the cities in those areas, please give us a call. Our attorneys are here 7 days a week to help. (360) 792-1000.