What You Need to Know About License Suspension in Washington

Officer checking a license

In Washington, it is illegal to operate a motor vehicle with a Blood Alcohol Content (BAC) of .08% or higher, or while you are under the influence of drugs or alcohol.

A Washington charge for Driving Under the Influence (DUI) or Physical Control is serious. Both are punishable by up to 364 days in jail and/or a fine of up to $5,000. In addition to these penalties, you also face suspension of your driver’s license.

Many drivers are confused about the difference between the Department of Licensing (DOL) suspension and the license suspension that happens if you are convicted of a DUI or Physical Control. Part of the confusion comes from the fact that there are actually two different license suspensions you will need to address. The first license suspension comes when you are charged with a DUI. The second comes if you are convicted.

Challenging the Department of Licensing Suspension

When you are arrested and charged on suspicion of DUI, your driver’s license may be suspended by the DOL for anywhere between 90 days and two years. The suspension goes into effect 30 days from the date you were arrested (breath test and refusal cases) or 30 days from the notice has been given (blood test cases) unless you request a hearing. This suspension only applies in DUI cases where there is evidence of:

  • A refusal to take an evidentiary breath test;
  • A test of a person’s breath or blood at or above .08 for alcohol (adults);
  • A test of a person’s blood at or above a THC concentration of 5.00 (adults);
  • A test of a person’s breath or blood at or above .02 (under 21);
  • A test of a person’s blood at or above a THC concentration of 0.00 (under 21).

*Please note there are different rules for commercial motor vehicle drivers.

This suspension applies to out-of-state drivers as well. For individuals with an out-of-state driver’s license, the WA State DOL will suspend your ability to drive in WA. This may lead to a suspension of your driver’s license in your home state.

If you wish to contest the DOL suspension, you must request a hearing within 7 days of the date of arrest (breath test and refusal cases) or 7 days from the date notice is given (blood test) . You can request a hearing to challenge the DOL suspension by mailing a form to the DOL or by requesting a hearing online.

During the DOL suspension hearing, a hearing officer will review the evidence presented by the arresting officer, as well as any evidence presented by your attorney. The hearing officer will ensure that the arresting officer:

  • Followed the appropriate procedures when stopping your vehicle or detaining you
  • Had probable cause to believe that you were driving while under the influence
  • Provided you with the appropriate implied consent warnings

If you submitted to a chemical test, the hearing officer will also confirm that the test results showed that your BAC was above the legal limit. A DUI attorney may be able to challenge the results of a chemical test on grounds that the test results are not accurate and/or reliable.

The hearing officer will determine whether the suspension of your driver’s license was justified, or whether the license suspension should be dismissed and your license returned.

A DOL suspension hearing can be confusing and intimidating. To give yourself the best chance of beating the DOL suspension, you need an experienced Washington DUI defense attorney on your side. A Washington DUI defense attorney can also assist with the complicated process of defending you against the underlying DUI charge.

Even if the DOL suspension goes into effect, an experienced DUI attorney can assist you in navigating the maze of getting an interlock license, dealing with the suspension, and getting relicensed.

Driver’s License Suspension After a Conviction for DUI or Physical Control

Separate from the DOL suspension, you also face suspension of your driver’s license if you are convicted of DUI or Physical Control. The license suspension after a conviction for DUI or Physical Control can last anywhere from 90 days to 4 years, depending on the severity of the offense and whether you have prior convictions.

If you are convicted of a DUI, your face the following driver’s license suspensions:

  • For a first-time offense, a 90-day driver’s license suspension
  • For a second offense in seven years, a two-year driver’s license revocation
  • For a third DUI or more in seven years, a three-year license revocation

The difference between a license suspension and a license revocation is subtle, but important. A driver’s license suspension means your license is temporarily out of service. A driver’s license revocation means your license has been canceled and cannot be reinstated. If your license has been revoked, at the end of the revocation period you will need to apply for a new driver’s license. A revocation means you will likely have to take a written and driving test to obtain a new license. For those with a license suspension, taking written and driving tests are usually not requirements to get your license reinstated.

In addition to a license suspension, you also face penalties that include jail time, electronic home monitoring, fines, mandatory installation of an Ignition Interlock Device (IID), and alcohol or drug education or treatment.

It is important to remember that each individual’s case and license situation involve different issues and challenges. If you have questions, the best thing to do is to contact an experienced DUI defense attorney as soon as possible. There are many time-sensitive rules and evidentiary issues that relate to DUI and Physical Control. An experienced DUI attorney can help you understand these rules and look for issues that can help your case.

The Campbell Law Firm: DUI Defense in Northwest Washington

If you have been arrested and charged with a DUI or Physical Control in Washington, you face serious penalties that include hefty fines, jail time, and the suspension of your driver’s license. The Campbell Law Firm can help you challenge the DOL suspension, and represent you in your DUI case.

Learn more about our DUI defense practice, meet our attorneys, and learn why people choose the Campbell Law Firm. Then contact us today to schedule a free, confidential consultation to discuss your case.

We offer a free 90-minute consultation to help you understand how hiring an experienced DUI defense attorney can help and get answers to all of your questions. We handle most DUI cases on a flat fee.

Categories: DUI / Drunk Driving