When someone is charged with the crime of driving while under the influence of drugs or alcohol (DUI), he or she faces two separate sets of consequences:
- In the criminal case, they face jail time and a fine. They will also be put on probation. The court may also require a chemical dependency evaluation or a chemical use assessment.
- In the civil matter, they face driver's license suspension or revocation. They must also establish their trustworthiness and earn back their license by participating in the intoxilyzer program. In this program, a device is installed in your car which tests the driver's blood alcohol concentration (BAC) prior to starting and at periodic intervals. If the intoxilyzer detects alcohol, the car won't operate.
While a suspension or revocation of driving privileges may feel as much of a punishment like jail time or a fine, the courts don't see it that way. Jail time and fines are considered “punishment” for the crime. The loss of license, on the other hand, is considered a “penalty.” Punishments are meted out in criminal court. Penalties are imposed civilly.
Challenging Administrative Penalties
If you have a defense in your criminal DUI case, that same defense likely applies in your civil case. However, Washington courts require the defenses to be presented separately, to both the civil and criminal courts. There are several reasons for this, including differing standards of proof between the civil and the criminal courts. You need an attorney who is able to challenge both.
Examples of challenges to the revocation or suspension of a license can include:
- The stop was bad;
- The stop was impermissibly extended;
- The test result is wrong;
- You were not driving the car; and
- You were driving the car but consumed alcohol after the fact.
Timing is Critical
In criminal DUI cases, the court will notify you of your court date and you are expected to show up at that time. You may then challenge the evidence against you. However, in the DUI administrative process, the civil penalty is imposed automatically. If you want to challenge your license suspension or revocation, you must proactively request a court date, where you may then challenge the evidence against you.
Not only are you required to initiate the process, you only have a limited time to do so: 7 days from the time you received the notice.
Because timing is critical, it is important to retain an attorney experienced in handling both criminal and civil DUI cases as soon as you think you might be charged with a DUI or receive notice of the civil penalty of suspension or revocation. Your attorney can launch the civil process to challenge the government's action of taking your license away.
Contact an Experienced DUI Attorney in Washington State Today
Vinny Randhawa is a DUI defense attorney practicing in King County, Pierce County, and Snohomish County, Seattle, Washington. He is available to speak with you 24/7. If you have been charged or think you may be facing DUI charges, call (425) 228-2202. Vinny is happy to discuss your case and explain how he can help.