Little-Known Penalties for Failing to Surrender License

Posted by - June 2nd, 2009
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A driver arrested for DUI in Washington State who takes a breath test with a result of .08 or higher, or who refuses a breath test, is subject to “automatic” suspension/revocation of the license by the Department of Licensing.  There are other reasons that a license might be administratively suspended by the Department of Licensing, but a DUI arrest is probably the most common reason for license suspension.  It is especially important after a DUI arrest to timely request a hearing to contest the license suspension and we have dedicated a section of our firm,  Fox Bowman Duarte, to providing representation at Department of licensing administrative suspension hearings.

If a license suspension or revocation does occur, the Department of Licensing sends to the driver a notice of the suspension or revocation, and the notice it includes a statement that the driver must surrender his or her license to the Department of Licensing.  Drivers who don’t turn the license in to the DOL after suspension are unknowingly risking additional license suspension.  Pursuant to WAC 308-104-075,  an additional license suspension ranging from 60 days to 364 days can be imposed upon a driver who the Department of Licensing has determined to have committed “one of the prohibited practices set forth in RCW 46.20.0921.” Under this statute, it is a misdemeanor for a driver to willfully “fail or refuse to surrender to the Department upon its lawful demand any drivers license or identitcard which has been suspended, revoked or canceled.” 

The way this law is written, a driver who is arrested for DUI, whose license is subsequently suspended, and who fails to surrender his or her license to the Department of licensing upon lawful demand may be prosecuted for a misdemeanor.  Most people have no idea that failing to turn in the license is a crime. However, a misdemeanor conviction is not required for the Department to impose a an additional license suspension for failure to surrender the license because, under WAC 308-104-075, a conviction is not required — the Department of licensing may suspend the license is a “determines” that there has been a violation of RCW 46.20.0921.

In practice, I have never heard of the Department actually imposing an additional suspension upon a driver arrested for DUI in who fails to surrender his or her license after a DUI administrative suspension and lawful notice to surrender by the Department of licensing.  However, the Department has such authority and this is yet another example of the complexity of DUI defense and our licensing laws. Moreover, anyone who has suffered a license suspension would be well advised to surrender the license to the DOL upon lawful demand by the DOL.