New Ignition Interlock Device DUI Law for 2009

The New Year has brought significant changes to the Washington State DUI law. This year such a change is in the form of the new “Ignition Interlock License” Law. Our firm is finding answers to the questions raised by the Ignition Interlock Law, (otherwise known as IIL). Problematic areas include the scope of the IIL and the procedural limitations that DOL has when it comes to actually issuing the license "without delay." Furthermore, there are a number of nuances in the new law that must be reconciled.

RCW 46.20.308 is the mechanism for DOL hearings and it also impacts the admissibility of breath tests in the District and Municipal Courts. The new law contains a shorter deadline within which a hearing must be requested. This new deadline is a minor change with a potential for huge impact.

RCW 46.20.308 (7) now reads: “A person receiving notification under subsection (6)(b) of this section may, within twenty days after the notice has been given, request in writing a formal hearing before the department.” This amendment shortens, by 10 days, the deadline that applies to drivers who seek to contest their administrative license suspensions. The shortening of this deadline is another example of how one-sided DUI legislation has become. Once again, the Department of Licensing, has secured an advantage over the driver by affording themselves 40 days (previously it was 30 days) to find a hearing slot and thereby achieve their goal of reducing “suspension dismissals.” Prior to January 1, 2009 when the Department of Licensing had an equal amount of time as a driver the Department of licensing ran the risk of being unprepared to proceed within the statutory timeline.

RCW 46.208.308, subsection 2 has had a substantial change which affects the admissibility of breath tests due to the Implied Consent Warnings now requiring the additional warning to arrestees that: “If the driver's license, permit, or privilege to drive is suspended, revoked, or denied the driver may be eligible to immediately apply for an ignition interlock driver's license”. However, many police agencies undoubtedly will not have updated their forms to accurately state the requirements and advisement under the new law. In any given case, this can provide a basis to argue that incorrect advisement given to a driver, misstates the law and as a consequence the driver's license should not be suspended and the breath test should be excluded from evidence in a criminal trial.

Another change that has been overshadowed by the IIL is section 11 of the new law which also became effective on January 1, 2009. It appears to eliminate all of those questions regarding a Washington DUI arrest and the effect a potential WA DOL suspension will have upon a non-resident arrestee’s license in their home state. This section reads “When it has been finally determined under the procedures of this section that a nonresident's privilege to operate a motor vehicle in this state has been suspended, revoked, or denied, the Department shall give information in writing of the action taken to the motor vehicle administrator of the state of the person's residence and of any state in which he or she has a license.” Previously, such notification seemed to be more dependent upon the disposition of the particular hearing examiner as to whether they would notify the non-resident arrestee’s “home state,” but given this new directive, and advisement to the home state of he non-resident driver regarding the suspension of the privilege to drive in Washington state is now all but guaranteed.

Although significant portions of the IIL legislation will provide relief for many citizens arrested for DUI, the amendments to the law also include some minor changes that are easy to overlook. Although these changes are minor, their effect is to continue to “stack the deck” in favor of the DOL. The correct response, of course, is aggressive litigation by a DUI defense attorney committed to most effectively representing the client’s needs.