How to Avoid a DUI License Suspension
If you are stopped for a suspected DUI in Washington there are certain things it is important to know. This situation can be stressful, but there are proper ways to handle it to avoid further legal trouble for yourself or any passengers. If you know your rights and responsibilities ahead of time, it can be a great deal of help.
After a person has been arrested for a DUI, that person faces two different processes. The first is the criminal process that can lead to jail, fines, and probation. The second is an administrative process that can take away your right to drive for a certain period of time.
If you have been arrested for a DUI, you will face a driver's license suspension or possible revocation by the Department of Licensing.
Experienced Washington DUI lawyer James Curtis at The Curtis Firm can help with your DUI case. The administrative process can be complicated, but you do not have to do it by yourself.
The DUI Administrative Process (The DOL Hearing)
After an arrest for DUI, the law enforcement officer will typically take the suspect to the police station for a breath test. If the driver blows over the legal limit or refuses to take the test, the officer will provide him or her with a hearing request form.
You are required to request the hearing; it does not happen automatically. Your request for an administrative hearing must be postmarked within 7 days of your arrest or else effectively waive your right to one.
You may access the Washington State Department of License (DOL) DUI Administrative Hearing request form below:
Within a few weeks of your request for a hearing, you will receive a date and time notification for the hearing. If you listed a Washington DUI attorney on the request, he or she will also receive notice. If you did not list your DUI lawyer, give your lawyer the notification as soon as possible. You will also receive a copy of the police report.
A judge is not in charge of the administrative hearing. Instead, it is a "hearing examiner" and the entire hearing is conducted over the telephone. This hearing examiner is an employee of the Department of Licensing and is randomly assigned to the case.
What the Examiner Must Decide
The hearing examiner's job is to resolve four primary issues during the hearing:
- Was the arrest lawful and constitutional?
- Did the officer that arrested you have reasonable grounds to suspect you were intoxicated while driving or had physical control of the vehicle?
- Were you properly advised of your rights and warnings pursuant to Washington's implied consent law?
- Did you refuse the test or did your test show a result over the applicable legal limit?
These are the only four things that the hearing examiner has to determine in order to move forward in the administrative process. Unlike a criminal case, the "beyond a reasonable doubt" standard does not apply to the evidence while a mere "preponderance of the evidence" standard applies. This means that if the examiner believes the factors are more likely than not to be true, he or she can find the issues satisfied.
Testifying at the Hearing
Unless the driver requests it, the arresting officer is not required to testify at the administrative hearing. The driver is allowed to testify, but this is not recommended without an attorney on the call with you. Drivers can accidentally prove the case against themselves or admit into evidence what has not yet been proven. In fact, the driver does not even have to be on the phone call, and the attorney can handle this part for him or her.
The DUI Administrative Decision
Once the evidence is concluded, the hearing examiner is able to make a decision. This can happen right away, but most hearing examiner's take the matter "under advisement." They will then issue the decision within a few days or even weeks or months later. During this time, the defendant is able to legally drive unless his or her license is suspended or revoked through a separate process.
If the hearing examiner finds that the four questions are answered in the affirmative, your license will be suspended.
DUI Administrative Penalties
The penalties depend on a variety of factors, including whether you refused the test or have had a prior administrative driver's license suspension.
90-Day Driver's License Suspension
If you blew over the legal limit, and you have had no prior DUI administrative suspensions, your driver's license will be suspended for 90 days. The legal limits include:
- 0.08% BAC for drivers aged 21 and over
- 0.04% BAC for commercial drivers
- 0.02% BAC for drivers under the age of 21 (underage DUI).
Under a 90-day suspension, you can apply for an ignition interlock device, a device that will test your breath for alcohol and not allow the vehicle to start if it detects a certain level. You will not be able to drive without proof that you have obtained the device. You will also have to file proof of SR-22 "high risk" insurance before you can drive.
1-Year Driver's License Suspension
If you refuse to take a breath test and have no prior DUI administrative suspensions, your driver's license will be suspended for one year. The same requirements for an ignition interlock device and SR-22 "high risk" insurance apply to a one-year suspension.
2-Year Driver's License Suspension
If a person has a second administrative DUI suspension within seven years, his or her driver's license will be revoked for two years. The same requirements for an ignition interlock device and SR-22 "high risk" insurance apply to a two-year suspension.
SR-22 "High Risk" Insurance
SR-22 "high risk" insurance is required of any driver who poses a risk to the safety of the community. Under Washington law, this includes those accused of a DUI. The premiums are more expensive, and you are required to add this type of insurance to your vehicle for three years following an administrative suspension.
Do I Need a Washington DUI Defense Attorney?
Hiring a knowledgeable DUI attorney is the best way to protect yourself against the harsh penalties associated with an administrative suspension. This is especially true because the Department of Licensing can take your license even when your DUI charges were dropped or you were acquitted of the charge. Without experienced help, you may fall victim to an overzealous or careless hearing officer.
The costs of losing your license, the ignition interlock device, and the high-risk insurance can add up. You can save the money and frustration of losing your license by challenging the administrative suspension.
Contact Our Skilled DUI Defense Lawyers
If you or someone you care about has been arrested for DUI in Washington, you need an experienced DUI attorney to defend your case and protect your constitutional rights.
Experienced DUI defense attorney James Curtis at The Curtis Firm, LLC can help with your criminal case. Contact us today for a consultation.