Retaining The Driving Privilege
Administrative Suspensions, Consequences of a DUI, and
the Ignition Interlock Device
Retaining the driving privilege is oftentimes the main priority for clients who are accused of DUI or related offenses. Therefore, it is important to understand the potential licensing consequences (1) following an arrest for DUI, but before conviction, and (2) following a conviction. It is also important to understand what must be done in order to continue to drive when faced with either an administrative suspension or mandatory statutory sentencing.
Administrative Suspensions — Licensing Consequences Following Arrest
Following an arrest for DUI or similar offense, an administrative case may arise in the Washington State Department of Licensing (hereinafter “DOL”). This is due to the “implied consent” laws in Washington.
“Implied consent” means that any person who operates a motor vehicle within Washington State is deemed to have impliedly given their consent to a test of their breath or blood for the purpose of determining alcohol concentration or presence of any drug if arrested for DUI or related offense. If, after arrest, a test of a person’s breath or blood is .08 or more if the person is 21 or older, or .02 or more if the person is under the age of 21, or the person refuses to submit to a test, the arresting officer (or DOL in the case of a blood test) will give the person notice in writing that the DOL intends to suspend the person’s privilege to drive. This notice will also inform the person of their right to an administrative hearing to contest the suspension.
If the person fails to request a hearing, the DOL will automatically suspend the person’s driving privileges. However, this automatic license suspension will be “stayed” if the person facing a license suspension requests a hearing by submitting the Driver’s Hearing Request to the DOL with the required $375.00 fee within 7 days after the notice of suspension has been given.
Therefore, requesting a hearing is a good way to initially retain the privilege to drive as it will place a stay on the pending license suspension. The stay should also be extended when the administrative hearing is continued or rescheduled. Furthermore, the filing of an “Intent to Seek Deferred Prosecution” with the DOL will stay a license suspension pending entry of the deferred prosecution for 150 days.
If the individual fails to request a hearing, or loses the administrative hearing, DOL will usually suspend or revoke the person’s driving privileges:
- For at least one year if the person refused a breath test
- For at least 90 days if the person had a breath or blood alcohol concentration of .08 or more
- For 90 days if the person is under 21 and had a breath or blood alcohol concentration of .02 or more
However, the period of revocation or suspension may be longer depending on the driver’s history.
Ultimately, a person accused of DUI or similar offense may have their driving privileges suspended regardless of whether they have been convicted of DUI in the criminal context.
Statutory Sentencing Requirements — Licensing Consequences Following Conviction
Licensing consequences will also arise as a result of a conviction for DUI in criminal court. These consequences are separate from the administrative sanctions outlined above. It is possible that you could prevail in an administrative hearing and avoid an administrative suspension of driving privileges, but still face a license suspension or revocation as a result of a criminal conviction.
A person who is convicted of a DUI will also be required to have a functioning ignition interlock device installed on all motor vehicles operated by the person. The period for which ignition interlock use is required is as follows:
- (1) A period of one year for a person who has not previously been required to use an ignition interlock device
- (2) A period of five years for a person who has been previously required to use an ignition interlock device for one year
- (3) A period of ten years for a person who has been previously required to use an ignition interlock device for five years.10
However, if certain requirements are met, an ignition interlock device may not be necessary on vehicles owned, leased, or rented by a person’s employer and driven at the direction of the person’s employer as a requirement of employment during working hours. Additionally, the court may waive the requirement under other limited circumstances.
Retaining the Driving Privilege in Lieu of License Suspension — Ignition Interlock Device
Clients accused of DUI or related offenses have the option to apply for an ignition interlock device before an administrative suspension goes into effect. In fact, a person may apply for an ignition interlock driver’s license anytime, including immediately after receiving notice that the department will suspend his or her driver’s license or even after license suspension.
Therefore, it is important to discuss the desirability of requesting an administrative hearing or seeking Ignition Interlock Driver License without a hearing with your attorney. An administrative hearing may be a useful tool–it can be used by the attorney to cross-examine the arresting officer under oath, build evidence, and create a record. The arresting officer’s testimony may be useful for a variety of reasons in the criminal context.
In order to apply for an ignition interlock driver’s license the applicant must complete and submit the required application and pay a fee to the DOL. To be eligible, the applicant must provide proof to the DOL that a functioning ignition interlock device has been installed on all vehicles operated by the person among other requirements. Additionally, the applicant must pay the cost of installing, removing, and leasing the ignition interlock device and must pay monthly fees.
The applicant must also provide satisfactory proof of financial responsibility. This is commonly achieved through obtaining a “certificate of insurance” as proof. The certificate of insurance is oftentimes called “SR 22 insurance.” The cost of SR 22 insurance varies. The applicant must file this written certificate (obtained from an insurance carrier who is authorized to do business in Washington) with the DOL and the certificate must certify that the applicant has the proper motor vehicle liability policy. The DOL will require that the applicant provides such proof of responsibility for three years.
As indicated above, the installation of an ignition interlock device may not be necessary on vehicles owned, leased, or rented by a person’s employer and driven at the direction of a person’s employer during working hours. But the applicant must provide the DOL with a declaration from his or her employer stating that the person’s employment requires the person to operate a vehicle owned by the employer during working hours.
An administrative suspension or DUI conviction carries licensing consequences that can have major impacts on your employment, social life, recreation, and basic happiness and quality of life. However, an active approach and proper planning can help you keep driving. You can continue living a normal life despite having a license suspension.