DUI / DOL License Suspension Hearing

After a DUI / DWI / drunk driving arrest, you will likely face a suspension of your driver's license. It is important that you request the DOL hearing to avoid your suspension. Talk to the best rated defense attorney in your area to get the best advice on DUI suspensions. Witt Law Group PS Attorney Ryan Witt Attorney Jennifer Witt

In Washington, a person charged with DUI (and other offenses) may face a driver’s license suspension via two avenues that, in most cases, occur simultaneously. 

  1. The criminal case – As a result of a plea, a conviction, or an alternative resolution, there may be a license suspension. The length of suspension will depend on criminal history, whether you refused to submit to the breathalyzer as well as several other factors.
  2. The administrative suspension – When you are arrested for DUI, the officer submits the BAC result or the blood result from the crime lab to the Department of Licensing (the level of your blow/blood, whether you have a CDL, are a minor, and other factors are all relevant to whether the BAC/blood result is submitted to DOL).

The DOL hearing is the “civil” side of the case. Your arraignment, pretrial hearings, and possibly trial, are all part of the criminal case. While the criminal case, with all of the court hearings, is open and obvious, the civil side sparks much more uncertainty and confusion. 

DOL hearing process 

The DOL hearing is not held in front of a judge nor does it occur in a courtroom. They are almost always held telephonically and, in the vast majority of cases, include only the private defense attorney and the Hearing Examiner. Public defenders do not handle DOL hearings because they are civil in nature and public criminal defense funds are not intended for administrative matters.

Hearings Examiners

The DOL hearings are administered by employees of the Department of Licensing, called Hearings Examiners. The Hearing Examiner essentially acts as both the prosecutor and the judge by looking for proof of certain issues and also taking into consideration the defense’s arguments on those issues prior to issuing a ruling. If it doesn’t sound fair or objective, you are not alone in your impression. Not surprisingly, the Hearing Examiner “sustains” (affirms the DOL suspension) in approximately 80% of cases.

Criminal vs. civil

The most significant difference between the criminal and civil hearings is that, in a civil hearing (DOL hearing), a person is not afforded the right to remain silent. The 5th Amendment right to remain silent only applies in criminal hearings. In other words, if a client testifies at a DOL hearing, they have opened themselves up to any line of questioning that the Hearing Examiner wants to pursue. With no right to remain silent in the civil hearing, you could be forced to answer incriminating questions.

What is considered at the hearing?

The DOL hearing is very different from the criminal case. DOL hearings are very impersonal. The examiner is only looking within the four corners of the documents for evidence relevant to the pertinent issues. If you want to know more about the four issues considered at the DOL hearing, you can find more information here. Additionally, the Examiner only has to find by a preponderance of the evidence that the pertinent facts exist. This is a very low standard compared to the “beyond a reasonable doubt” standard used in criminal cases.


If you did not request the DOL hearing, you should receive notice (assuming your address is up to date with DOL) that your privilege to drive will be suspended 30 days following your arrest.

If you requested the hearing and paid the $375 within 7 days of your arrest, you will likely still receive the form letter that you will be suspended 30 days following your arrest. This form letter is typically generated and mailed before DOL processes the hearing request – so it can be quite confusing. 

Hearing date

Once DOL processes your hearing request, you/we will be notified of a hearing date. Depending on defense strategies or other considerations, your attorney may move this hearing date out one time. Depending on whether your DUI case is resolved as well as other strategic considerations, it is likely your attorney will not want you present during the hearing.

License status

Assuming you are not suspended already or being suspended due to another matter (3 or more traffic tickets, for example), you should be able to drive prior to your hearing date. Requesting the hearing should stay the suspension. In 99% of cases, this is true. However, it is your responsibility to routinely monitor your license status. You can do this by setting up a License eXpress account (this only works for those issued a Washington driver’s license).

Hearing Examiner’s determination

Notice of the Examiner’s decision typically arrives 2 – 4 weeks following the hearing date. 

If the Hearing Examiner “sustained” the DOL action and your license will be suspended, you may still be able to drive. Your attorney can walk you through options for a special license.

Unpredictability of DOL

Of all the considerations in a criminal case, we find that actions taken by the Department of Licensing to be the most unpredictable and frustrating. We can not emphasize enough how important it is for you to monitor your license status. The risk for an additional criminal charge is real. 

We are not able to monitor a client’s license status. Therefore, it is imperative that, if you have a Washington state issued license, you set up a License eXpress account and check it regularly. If your license is out of state, you will need to comply with any monitoring requirements of your home state. Be aware that any action taken by the Washington Department of Licensing will eventually impact the status in your home state. 

If you are facing a DUI / DWI or other criminal charge that may affect your driving privilege, reach out to our attorneys to see how we can help. (360) 792-1000. We are here 7 days a week so don’t delay in getting important answers!

Ryan and Jen Witt of Witt Law Group, Kitsap County defense and personal injury lawyers

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Whether you choose to handle your case alone or engage the Witt Law Group, being informed and prepared is essential. Early involvement of an attorney can significantly impact your chances of a fair recovery, allowing you to focus on healing while we handle negotiations with insurance adjusters to secure fair compensation for your injuries.

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