Once a person’s license has been punched, there is an affirmative duty to request a hearing within twenty (20) days from the Department of Licensing or that hearing is deemed waived. The hearing request must be accompanied by a $200.00 hearing fee or a request to waive that fee in cases of indigency. By requesting the hearing, your driving privileges are protected until there is an actual hearing and a written order of suspension. This whole process can often take two to five months. By not requesting the hearing, the suspension will be set to take place automatically 60 days from arrest.
Once the DOL receives the request it will assign a hearing officer and set a hearing date. You, or your attorney if you’ve hired one, will receive a copy of the police report. In some cases the hearing will be held within 60 days. In many cases, sometimes for scheduling purpose but often for strategic reasons, the initial hearing date is continued. In cases of a continuance, the individual’s temporary license will remain in effect for up to 150 days from the date of arrest or until the hearing officer reaches a decision. All hearing officers are very different in this regard. Some rule within days. Others take months.
IMPORTANT. Be careful. The twenty day (20) notice requirement used to be thirty (30) days until it was changed by the Washington Legislature as on January 1, 2009. Some of the old forms are still in existence. Our office has seen individuals provided this erroneous form by the officer who arrested them and even some DUI attorneys who should know better. The bottom line is that if the 20 day requirement is missed, the DOL will likely blame you, not the officer or the mistaken attorney.
The rules governing Administrative License Suspension hearings are laid out in WAC 308-103, to which a link has been provided for your convenience. These administrative hearings consist of a phone hearing at which you will be represented by your DUI lawyer and the DOL by an assigned hearing officer. You will have the right to testify, present witnesses, present evidence and even to subpoena the arresting officer if you or your attorney so choose. Unlike criminal cases, the DOL only has to prove its issues by a preponderance of the evidence. The issues to be decided are found on your hearing request form and are as follows:
- Whether you were under lawful arrest.
- Whether an officer had reasonable grounds to believe you had been driving or were in actual physical control of a motor vehicle within this state while under the influence of intoxicating liquor or any drug, or whether an officer had reasonable grounds to believe you had been driving or were in actual physical control of a motor vehicle within this state while having alcohol in you system of 0.02 or more and were under the age of twenty-one.
- Whether you were advised of your rights and warnings as required by RCW 46.20.308(2).
- Whether you refused to submit to the test, or if the test was administered, whether the test indicated an alcohol concentration of 0.08 or more if you were age twenty-one or over, or 0.02 or more if you were under twenty-one.
The rules governing these hearings give broad discretion to the Hearing Officer, who not only acts as the arbiter of the case, but often times the prosecutor as well. Realistically, in order to prevail in this environment, you will need to have an experienced DUI attorney who is familiar with the Washington DOL, it’s hearing officers, and this forum.