Fight for your License – DOL Administrative Hearings

man in suit banging a gavel

Washington’s DUI laws are among the toughest in the nation. Mandatory license suspension accompanies every DUI arrest where the breath test was refused or where the breath test was at or above the legal limit. If you have been arrested for DUI, it is important to request a DOL administrative hearing right away.

What’s the Deadline to Request a DMV Administrative Hearing?

You must inform the Department of Licensing that you wish to have the opportunity to avoid mandatory automatic suspension within 7 days from “receipt of the notice.” This almost always means that the deadline to request a hearing is 7 days from the date of arrest. However, in a blood test case, the DOL notice of suspension might be sent to a driver long after the arrest once the test result is analyzed. It is a wise idea to consult with an attorney immediately after a DUI arrest so that you can be sure you are taking the correct steps and complying with any DOL deadlines.

How Do You Request a DUI Administrative Hearing?

The WA Department of Licensing has two mechanisms by which you may request an administrative hearing to fight the suspension of your license, by mail or online submission.

You may send in the DUI hearing request form and fee by mail. Be sure to obtain proof that you mailed it in a timely manner by sending it certified or by obtaining a “certificate of mailing” from the post office at the time of mailing. Please keep in mind that the Department of Licensing will not honor your request for a hearing to fight for your license if you do not also include the $375 fee with the hearing request (except in the case of indigent citizens).

You could also request an administrative hearing online. You will have to join or login to the WA DOL License eXpress portal and once you have gained access to your account and services you can complete the DUI hearing request form and submit payment.

In any event, do not miss the 7 day deadline because if you do, the DOL does not have to grant you a hearing.

WA DOL License Suspension Letter

Within about two weeks after a DUI arrest, the driver will usually receive a letter from the Department of Licensing stating that the license has been suspended for 90 days or more depending upon circumstances. Some people, upon receipt of this letter, think that they have already lost and the license suspension is happening even though they make a timely request for a hearing.

DOL sends the letter even if a timely request for a hearing has been made, and the suspension is "stayed" (stopped) pending the outcome of the hearing. So don't lose hope. If you made a timely request for a DUI hearing, your attorney can fight to stop the suspension from being confirmed by DOL.

Once a hearing has been timely requested by a driver, the burden shifts to the Department of Licensing to set an administrative hearing at which the DOL must legally justify the license suspension. Specifically, the Department is required to provide legal proof. This generally takes the form of a copy of the police report and a declaration under penalty of perjury by the arresting officer that the report is true.

How Does a Driver Win a DUI Hearing?

The burden of proof on the Department of Licensing is lower than that in a criminal case, in which the burden of proof is “beyond a reasonable doubt.” The administrative hearing is a civil administrative quasi-judicial action and therefore, the burden of proof on the WA DOL is by “a preponderance.” In addition, the hearing itself is held by telephone, and the arresting officer is not required to participate unless subpoenaed. This doesn’t sound like much of a hearing to the average citizen.

Further, the functions of “prosecutor” and “judge” are performed by the same person at an administrative hearing —an employee of the Department of Licensing. It is no wonder that it is difficult to prevent license suspension given the way this process is set up. However, there are still legal defenses that can be presented including whether:

  • There was probable cause to detain or arrest the driver
  • The proper legal advisements were given to the driver
  • The breath test was properly administered
  • The breath test is accurate in the scientific sense

If the driver wins the administrative hearing, the underlying DUI charge must still be defended if the license is to be saved, for a DUI conviction carries a suspension or revocation of license separate and apart from the administrative consequences discussed above. In the event that the Department of Licensing sustains the order of suspension or revocation, the driver then must decide whether to apply for an Ignition Interlock License, further appeal the Department of Licensing decision, or both. These are tactical and practical decisions that merit further discussion in light of your particular circumstances.

Contact a Knowledgeable Washington DUI Defense Attorney

It is commonly said that driving is “a privilege and not a right.” Legally speaking, this is a correct statement of the law. But it is also true that driving is a necessity for people who need to get to and from work, who have day care concerns, who live in rural areas, or who are not served by public transportation.

If you are facing administrative license suspension, an experienced attorney can help protect your driving privileges. Offering reliable representation and dedicated counsel, the Fox Law Firm PLLC has been successfully fighting DUI charges for clients since 1985. Contact Attorney Jon Fox for a free consultation by calling (425) 274-9190.

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