April 6, 2020 – Matthew Skau, Associate Attorney:
With COVID-19 closing courts and throwing prosecutors’ offices into chaos you might be tempted as a DUI defendant to “wait and see” before calling an experienced defense attorney. If you do, you risk a license suspension or revocation before the prosecutor even gets around to filing your case in court.
Any person arrested for a DUI with a blood alcohol content over the legal limit, or who allegedly refused to take the test, will automatically have their license suspended or revoked by the Department of Licensing regardless of what happens with the courts. Prior to January 1, 2019, you had 20 days from the date of your arrest to request a hearing from the Department of Licensing to try to prevent this, but the Department changed their rules shortening that time to only 7 days (RCW 46.20.308.7). That time flies by fast, especially if you spent any of it in custody subsequent to arrest.
It is entirely possible that you might miss this deadline and be facing a license suspension before the prosecutor even files your case in court. In some cases, you may face a suspension even if the prosecutor NEVER files on your case. To complicate matters, some State Troopers are still using the old forms from before January 1, 2019 which erroneously state the 20 day deadline, particularly if you’re a Spanish speaker being given the Spanish language form.
If you do not wish to waive your right to a suspension hearing and want to keep driving while your case is pending, it’s important that you call an experienced DUI attorney for a consultation as soon after your arrest as possible.
If you were arrested for a marijuana DUI or any other DUI where you’re waiting on the results of a blood draw, you potentially face the opposite problem. In blood draw cases the Department of Licensing gives notice of a suspension after the blood results come back from the lab, which in the current climate of overburdened State labs could take several months or even up to a year. After those results are provided to the Department of Licensing, they will send you notice of suspension in the mail. You would then have 7 days from the date the Department provided notice to request a hearing or face suspension. If you have moved and not notified the Department of Licensing of the address change, or if you don’t check your mail on a regular basis, you may well miss the deadline and inadvertently waive your right to a hearing.
If you have a pending DUI with a pending blood draw, having an experienced attorney representing you can give peace of mind that you won’t miss important deadlines like this. Your attorney will be notified when your blood results come back, and they will be in a position to file your hearing request in a timely manner with the Department of Licensing.
The Department of Licensing charges $375 for a hearing, although the fee can be waived with a show of indigency. Suspension hearings are held by telephone. As a result, they have not been significantly impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. Hearing Examiners have been continuing their hearing schedules without significant interruption. The same cannot be said of potential witnesses in your case, notably the State Patrol Trooper or other other law enforcement officers.
You have a legal right, even in telephonic hearings before the Department of Licensing, to face your accuser. That means you have a right to demand the presence of the Trooper or Officer who arrested you to present testimony. Due to the pandemic, many law enforcement offices are closed to the public or have moved to a contact-free method of receiving service of process. This can make it difficult to navigate the Department of Licensing’s requirements for properly serving the Officer in your case. An experienced attorney can alleviate that burden as well, giving you peace of mind in a constantly-changing environment.
Even with so many people sheltering at home during this pandemic, many people still need the use of a drivers license. Essential personnel still need to drive to work. Even if you’re not essential, you may want to keep your privilege to drive in case of an emergency or to procure necessary supplies. Don’t be blindsided by a license suspension. If you’ve been arrested for a DUI call Yranela and Associates for a free consultation. We are here to help provide what peace of mind we can in an uncertain time.
We’ve handled and gotten thousands of tickets dismissed for our clients all across Western Washington. When you get a raw deal, we push back and get fines significantly reduced by using the law to our advantage. Call 425-260-9366 to talk about your ticket and how we can help win your case.