Today I had a Washington Department of Licensing Administrative Hearing today. For those of you that don't know what this is. When a person gets arrested for a DUI or a Physical Control charge in Washington State they are usually asked to submit to a breath or blood test. Based on the results of that test, the police officer will send in the results to DOL. DOL will then automatically suspend that persons drivers license 60 days from the date of arrest, unless that suspension is challenged. As a DUI Attorney my representation includes this DOL hearing, so as you can imagine I deal with DOL quite often.
Anyway I had a DOL hearing today for a client who was arrested in Seattle for a DUI charge. This was clients first offense, and I had already negotiated a reduction to Negligent Driving First Degree. This would ensure that my client would not face a license suspension from the Courts, however he was still facing one from DOL. As part of my investigation I conduct a thorough review of the police report that DOL sends me. I have created a 4 page checklist that I go through, so I don't miss any issues in the report that could argue to DOL. Sometimes police officers forgot to check certain boxes, or they accidentally omit information, or they provide incorrect information. These are just some of the many technicalities that can result in a person winning their DOL hearing.
So on this particular case, I had noticed that the Officer had provided his breath test permit card. This card shows that a police officer is qualified to administer the breath test. However they expire every 3 years, and the police officer needs to renew it. In this case the police officers permit card was expired on the day he arrested my client and administered the breath test. The problem was that he checked a box in the police report that said he was qualified to administer the test and he had a current breath test permit card. In addition to that at the beginning of the police report he had written some boiler plate language that Im sure he includes in every report, but it said he was qualified to administer the breath test.
Now even though the permit card was expired, I thought the DOL would find there were sufficient facts to show he was qualified based on the report that he submitted. I had prepared a lengthy argument against this, including some contract law principles. I was prepared to argue as much as I could to dismiss this license suspension.
Here is the pleasant part. When the hearing officer called me, before he started the recording. He told me that he noticed the police officer had an expired permit card, and I should make a motion when he starts the recording. I was shocked to say the least. Here I thought I was going to have to duke it out with this hearing officer over this DUI permit card, but the hearing officer recognized a legal technicality and rather than try to make up a reason not to honor it, he did the right thing. Some hearing officers would not have done that, and probably would have suspended my clients drivers license. But on this case, the hearing officer did what was not only right, but what was legal.
I made the motion to dismiss because there was insufficient foundation to introduce the breath test. The hearing officer agreed, and dismissed the proposed license suspension. BAM. Thats what a little leg work, and preparation will do.
Remember if you have been accused of a DUI and you're facing a proposed license suspension from DOL make sure you challenge that suspension. It can mean the difference between no license consequences at all versus a license suspension, mandatory ignition interlock, and SR-22 insurance.
Matthew A. Leyba | Attorney
Leyba Defense PLLC | Seattle DUI Defense