If you get pulled over and arrested for driving under the influence (DUI), the first thing that will happen is your driver's license will be suspended by the Washington Department of Licensing. This process begins at the time of your arrest, if you take a breathalyzer (breath test) and it shows that your breath or blood alcohol content (BrAC or BAC) is at or above the legal driving limit, or if you refuse to take the test.
Following your apprehension, the police officer will notify the Department of Licensing of the arrest. 60 days after the DUI arrest, the Department of Licensing will automatically suspend your license for the specified time period, unless you request a hearing to contest the suspension.
Recall that there are two sides to a DUI arrest – the administrative side, and the criminal side. While the criminal side culminates in a trial, the administrative aspect culminates in this hearing. At the hearing, which is conducted over the phone, the examiner will consider whether, after all of the facts are considered, your license should be taken away.
To get a hearing with the Department of Licensing, you need to formally request one within 20 days of your arrest. If you're even an hour late in your request, or if you do it improperly, your request will be denied and the Department of Licensing will go ahead with your license suspension. You can request a hearing using the Department of Licensing's form, or online. There is a $375 fee to request a hearing, though this can be waived if you're deemed to be indigent.
At this hearing, the state carries the burden of showing that your license should be suspended. After the hearing examiner begins the telephone conference, he or she will tell you that all of the testimony will be recorded and it's under oath, and then identify the evidence. You can object to the admission of any evidence, and the hearing examiner will consider whether to allow it to be heard. Once this is done, the hearing examiner will swear in all the witnesses and listen to their testimony. You'll have the opportunity to cross-examine them, present your own evidence, and testify on your own behalf, much like in a criminal trial. After the hearing examiner reviews all of the evidence, he or she will make a decision within the next month or two. You already received a temporary license, which continues until this decision is made. You'll be notified of the decision via mail.
Some of the issues that can be challenged at the hearing are whether the traffic stop or your arrest were lawful, or done with reasonable cause, and whether the BAC testing was done properly. These issues can be very fact-intensive and detail-oriented, so it's incredibly important to have an experienced attorney representing you, who knows all the ins and outs of DUI defense. Attorney Kevin Trombold has this experience. Call his law office at 206-971-0067.