What Is a Washington State DOL Hearing?
Getting arrested for driving under the influence (DUI) can be stressful and overwhelming. For minors, the stakes can be all the more dire. From court dates to legal requirements to release conditions, there can be a lot to remember while navigating the intricacies of criminal court.
While it can be nerve-racking to lack control after a DUI, especially in unfamiliar legal terrain, knowing what to expect moving forward can help defendants process and prepare for what comes next. In this blog, we’ll review some key elements of DOL hearings to help drivers regain a sense of control and pursue a favorable outcome.
What Is the Purpose of a DOL Hearing?
In Washington State, DUI charges will trigger an administrative license suspension action from the Department of Licensing or DOL hearing. Keep in mind that DOL hearings are entirely separate from the criminal proceedings.
Requesting a DOL Hearing
It’s crucial for drivers to understand that a DOL hearing isn’t automatically set. Instead, defendants must formally request them. During the arrest, offenders will receive a DOL Hearing Request Form informing them that the Department of Licensing intends to suspend or revoke their license, subject to their ability to request a formal hearing to challenge that suspension.
Once a driver is served notice of the DOL’s intent to suspend or revoke driving privileges, there is an affirmative duty to request a hearing within seven days. If the request is not made within that time period, it will be waived. A driver can request the hearing by submitting the completed form to the DOL by mail, fax, or by filing the request online.
Drivers must include the $375.00 hearing fee or a fee waiver request in cases of indigency. By requesting the DOL hearing, a driver’s proposed suspension is stayed (paused) until the hearing officer reaches a decision and written findings are entered.
How Long Does a DOL Hearing Take?
While the length of DOL hearings can vary based on individual circumstances, the process generally lasts 2 to 5 months. If drivers decline to request the DOL hearing, license suspension will take effect 30 days from the DUI arrest. Once the DOL receives the request, it will be assigned to a hearing officer and a court date will be set.
Once a hearing is requested, the DOL will send a copy of the police report it intends to introduce to the driver and their attorney at the hearing. While the hearing can happen within 30 days, this may vary. In cases of a continuance, the license suspension will remain in effect for up to 150 days from the date of arrest, or until the hearing officer reaches a decision.
Where Are DOL Hearings Held?
The rules governing Administrative License Suspension hearings are laid out in WAC § 308-103. These proceedings are almost always conducted over the phone with the hearing officer, any subpoenaed witnesses, and potentially the driver, although drivers can opt to waive their appearance and allow their attorney to represent them on the call instead.
Drivers also have the right to testify, present witnesses, present evidence, and even subpoena the arresting officer. Unlike criminal cases, which require a higher standard of proof (“beyond a reasonable doubt”), the DOL is required to prove its case by a preponderance of the evidence, meaning the Department of Licensing must show “it is more likely than not” that their argument is true.
What Is Decided in a DOL Hearing?
DOL hearings are held to establish various issues, including:
- Whether the officer had a lawful reason to stop the driver.
- Whether there was probable cause for a lawful arrest.
- Whether the driver refused to submit to the chemical test or, if the driver did consent, whether the reading indicated a BAC of 0.08% or higher for drivers 21 or older (0.02% for minors).
- Whether the driver was advised of their rights and warnings as required by RCW § 46.20.308(2).
Depending on the driver's circumstances, DOL hearings can result in license suspension for ninety days to two years.
Do I Need a Lawyer for a DOL Hearing?
The rules governing DOL hearings give broad discretion to the Hearing Officer, who not only acts as the arbitrator, but often the prosecutor. Like judges or prosecutors, Hearing Officers have their own proclivities, meaning that some arguments or tactics work much more frequently with certain officers than others.
DOL hearings typically involve tight deadlines and are extremely difficult to win. While drivers aren’t legally obligated to hire representation for their DOL hearing, they are strongly advised to do so, as seeking sound counsel from a qualified attorney can significantly improve their chances of obtaining a favorable outcome.
It's essential to hire a knowledgeable lawyer with a comprehensive knowledge of Washington law and extensive experience navigating DOL hearings. Securing skilled representation can be invaluable to drivers hoping to protect their driving privileges and reduce potential consequences.
To effectively represent clients in DOL hearings, a qualified attorney will tailor specific arguments and legal strategies to the Hearing Officer assigned to the case to give clients the best possible chance of retaining driving privileges. That’s why it’s best to consult with a Washington attorney to guide your steps with care and wisdom.
If you’re facing DUI charges in Washington State, seeking prompt counsel is essential. While DOL hearings can be daunting, understanding what they entail and working with an experienced DUI defense lawyer can significantly improve your chances of securing a favorable result.
Contact an Experienced Spokane DUI Lawyer
At Clark Law, P.L.L.C., our criminal defense attorney has a longstanding reputation for defending clients in Spokane and beyond. With a proven track record of case results and longstanding reputation for legal excellence, Attorney Steven Clark dedicates himself to prioritizing the unique needs of every client he serves. From traffic infractions to high-risk felony cases, reach out to our firm to secure the strong defense you deserve.
If you’re facing criminal charges in Spokane County, our firm can aggressively defend your freedom. Call (509) 800-5420 to schedule a consultation.