One of the most common, if not the most common questions I receive when speaking with someone who has just been arrested for DUI is, “Can I still drive or has my license been suspended automatically?” Most are surprised to learn that the mere fact of a DUI arrest in Washington state does not mean that there will automatically be a license suspension. If the arrested person has either given a blood or breath sample above a .08 or is alleged to have refused a breath test, the Washington State Department of Licensing will act to suspend or revoke the driving privilege. This is assuming that the arresting officer notifies the Department of Licensing of the arrest. In about one out of ten cases, the arresting officer does not do so. Even if the officer does notify the DOL of the incident, the suspension is neither immediate or automatic.
A person has a statutory right to contest any potential license suspension. So long as a hearing is requested within 20 days of the incident, the DOL can not suspend of revoke the driving privilege until after a full hearing, a process that can take anywhere from 2-5 months. Even if a hearing is not requested, the suspension or revocation would not go into effect until 60 from the date of arrest, or longer if there was a blood test. The only caveat of course is that if a person’s license was suspended prior to being arrested for DUI, it will remain suspended until the reason for that suspension has been addressed.
So while there are a great many potential consequences facing one who is arrested for DUI, an immediate and automatic suspension is not among them.