20-Day Rule

An arrest in Washington state for suspected driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol, or “DUI,” will result in driver’s license revocation, even if the case does not result in a conviction. The state’s Department of Licensing (DOL) handles the issuance, suspension, revocation, and reinstatement of driver’s licenses. After an arrest for DUI, a driver has twenty days to request a hearing from DOL to contest the suspension. This is an administrative proceeding completely separate from a criminal DUI case. You should consult with a Washington criminal defense attorney with experience in DUI-related license revocations, who can advise you of your rights and obligations and help you prepare for the DOL hearing.

License Suspension for DUI and the Right to an Administrative Hearing

State law has created two separate license suspension or revocation processes related to DUI offenses: one that occurs after a DUI arrest, and one that occurs after a DUI conviction. In the case of a license revocation based on an arrest, drivers have the right to an administrative hearing.

How to Request a Hearing with the Department of Licensing: The 20-Day Rule

When the police release you from custody, they likely will have punched a hole in your driver’s license. This makes it a temporary license, which is only valid for sixty days. They should provide you with paperwork that includes a form to request a hearing before the DOL. If you do not receive this form, you may apply online or download a PDF file of the form.

You must request the hearing within twenty calendar days of your arrest, or else you waive your right to a hearing. Requesting a hearing postpones the revocation of your license. If you mail the form to DOL, it must be postmarked no later than the twentieth day. It is a good idea to send the form via certified mail, return receipt requested, so that you will have a record of when you sent it and when DOL received it. You must submit a $375 fee with the hearing request, unless you can demonstrate that you meet the state’s poverty guidelines. The hearing may be conducted in person or over the telephone, and must take place within sixty days of your arrest.

What to Expect at the Hearing

The hearing officer will consider the circumstances of your arrest, including whether the arresting officer had reasonable suspicion that you were committing a DUI offense, whether your arrest was lawful, whether the arresting officer advised you of your rights related to blood or breath alcohol tests, and whether or not you refused the test. The state may present the arresting officer and others as witnesses. You may cross-examine the state’s witnesses, offer your own testimony, and bring your own witnesses.

DOL will send you a letter by mail to inform you of the hearing officer’s decision. If the hearing officer rules in your favor, your driver’s license will not be revoked. If you are subsequently convicted of DUI, however, another license revocation process may take place.

Defendants in criminal cases, and related administrative proceedings, have rights protected by Washington state law and the U.S. Constitution. If you have been charged with an alleged DUI offense, you should retain the services of an experienced Washington criminal defense attorney, who can advise you of your rights and represent you before the court and the Department of Licensing. Timothy L. Healy has assisted people in DUI cases for over fifteen years in Tacoma, Pierce County, and elsewhere in Washington state. Contact us today via our website or at (888) 312-3093 to schedule a free and confidential consultation.