An arrest for a DUI and dealing with the criminal charge is daunting enough. If you are lucky enough to have been informed about the co-occurring civil proceeding, your already high stress level will go through the roof. When we inform people about the civil proceedings, on top of the criminal prosecution, their heads figuratively explode. Most ask:
That is a great question. It’s one of the only questions where we do not have a satisfactory answer. The best we can surmise is “if one level of governmental oversight is good, two must be better.” Obviously this is a tongue in cheek answer. That is because there truly is no good answer – Washington State just likes more government than less. A wise, now retired Kitsap County District Court Judge, when posed with difficult questions, used to opine “It is what it is.” That is the most accurate statement when trying to rationalize the necessity for DOL’s involvement in DUI cases.
Understanding that the DOL’s case against a defendant occurs simultaneously with the government’s criminal prosecution, what can be done about it?
The Four Legal Issues At A DOL Hearing
The are four legal issues that a DOL Hearings Examiner will take into consideration at a DOL hearing. When we participate in a DOL Hearing on behalf of a client, we try to challenge at least one, if not all, of the issues.
1. Did the law enforcement officer have reasonable grounds to believe the petitioner had been driving or in physical control of a motor vehicle within this state while under the influence of intoxicating liquor or drugs;
2. Was the petitioner lawfully placed under arrest;
3. Was the petitioner advised of the ICWs (Blood case: Whether the petitioner’s blood was lawfully drawn, i.e. pursuant to search warrant or consent);
4. Was the breath/blood testing valid according to the statute and protocols established by the state toxicologist and showed a result of alcohol concentration of .08 (.02 for minor) or more or .50 or more for THC concentration.
Alternatively – If the subject refused, was the refusal valid under the statute and case law?
How To Challenge The Four Legal Issues
Have competent counsel help you throughout this process. Many people have public defenders appointed on their cases. Understand that public defenders represent people in criminal matters, not civil matters. While the DOL hearing seems like a logical extension of the criminal case, it is not. It is civil in nature, so a public defender will not help you.
Make sure to submit your request for the DOL hearing within 7 days from the date of arrest. If your license is from out of state, this request can not be done online, it must be made through the mail.
At the hearing, there are many considerations that your private attorney should address. Is the case at hand a refusal? Was there an accident? Were multiple people in the car? Did law enforcement see the driver behind the wheel? Should the defendant be available to testify? Is the BAC result admissible? Is the “chain of custody” good on a blood sample? This list could go on for pages and pages. Usually there is a valid challenge to at least one of the four issues if your attorney knows where to look.
Witt Law Group is a DUI Defense and Personal Injury law firm based in Washington State. We have offices in Bremerton, Poulsbo and Gig Harbor for your convenience. If you have a questions about an upcoming DOL hearing, or your DUI case in general, give our office a call.