If you experience the often traumatizing and upsetting event of being charged with a DUI in Washington State, your focus will likely turn to concern about criminal penalties. You will find yourself thinking about jail time, fines, and other potential consequences.

Most people do not realize that there are actually two parts to your DUI case in Washington State: criminal and administrative.

It is common to get caught up with the criminal case and inadvertently neglect the administrative aspect, but if that happens – there are consequences.

Driving after a DUI arrest is in part tied to how you handle the administrative aspect of your DUI case. Please read carefully:

When you are arrested or a DUI in Washington State, the arrest triggers administrative action with the Washington State Department of Licensing (DOL).

Your license will automatically be suspended if you do not request an administrative hearing.License suspension will occur completely separately from any criminal charges you may face. It is an independent process, and you must request a DOL Hearing in order to challenge the suspension.

*Requesting a hearing:

Your driver’s license will be automatically administratively suspended 60 days from the date of arrest if you do not request a hearing in a timely manner. You will lose your right to a hearing if you do not mail your Washington DOL hearing request form within 20 days of the arrest, or make the request online, including the $375 fee.

Please visit the Washington State DOL website for more information about this process. The website also includes links to requesting the hearing online or downloading the request form.

If you request your administrative hearing within the required timeframe, the DOL will not suspend your license until your hearing is held and a decision is determined.

*Your DOL hearing:

The Department of Licensing website provides tips for how to prepare for your hearing, including information about what to expect and the issues that will be addressed.

Once your hearing is requested, the Washington DOL will inform you of the date and time of your hearing and assign your case to a hearing officer. These administrative hearings occur by telephone and any witness you or your attorney may choose to subpoena will also appear by telephone. The hearing officer will have the police report and will consider circumstances surrounding your arrest in making the determination about whether your driver’s license should be suspended.

The hearing examiner will review the evidence and make a decision about the suspension or revocation of your license. This review may take up to 6 weeks from the date of your hearing and notice of the decision will in writing and mailed to your address of record. If you disagree with the hearing decision and wish to appeal, you may appeal through the Superior Court in the county where you were arrested.

If you win your Washington State DOL hearing, your license suspension will be canceled. If you lose, your license will be suspended. Length of suspension is determined based on your specific case.

Remember that the administrative Department of Licensing action is completely independent and separate from what occurs in DUI court.

*DUI Conviction Penalties/Driving implications:           

In Washington State, license suspension penalties are dependent upon the severity of the DUI and the number of prior offenses. This is entirely separate from the administrative process described above. RCW 46.61.5055 describes the penalties in detail.

In short:

  • If it is your first DUI in 7 years, license suspension may be imposed for anywhere from 90 days to 2 years, dependent BAC test results. You may be ordered to use an ignition interlock device for 1 year.
  • If it is your second DUI offense in 7 years, license suspension may be imposed for anywhere from 2-3 years, depending upon BAC test results. You may be ordered to use an ignition interlock device for 1-5 years.

In addition, SR-22 insurance is required for 3 years from the time your license suspension is lifted. You must have this in place to be able to drive legally. SR-22 demonstrates financial responsibility and acts as proof that you have the minimum insurance coverage required in Washington State. Please see the Washington State Department of Licensing website for details.

*Legal Representation:

Dealing with a suspended driver’s license can be overwhelming and very frustrating. We understand this and want to do everything we can to help you protect your right to drive. Often, people are discouraged by their chances of winning these administrative hearings against the Department of Licensing and don’t put effort into the fight.

Your odds of winning exponentially increase with representation by a qualified DUI attorney.

We highly recommend that you contact an experienced DUI attorney to advise you around your best course of action. These hearings are not hopeless if you have the proper support and representation. These are significant charges and you should not try to tackle them without experienced counsel to advise you appropriately and advocate on your behalf.