DUI and Your Driver’s License

A DUI arrest carries administrative consequences for the person charged. These are separate from the criminal case in which the Office of the Attorney General is attempting to obtain a conviction. Immediately after an arrest for driving while intoxicated, driving under the influence, or operating while impaired, the DC Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) will start administrative proceedings to suspend driving privileges. The penalties administered through the DMV proceedings are separate from and in addition to the penalties received through the criminal proceeding. Often, your DC DUI lawyer can assist with both the criminal charges and the DMV’s administrative hearing.

Upon a driver’s arrest, his/her license or privilege to drive will be suspended by the DMV, unless the driver applies for a hearing at the DMV within the specified time frame. This suspension will remain in effect pending the outcome of the criminal proceeding. If the driver is convicted of any drunk driving offense, the DC DMV will automatically revoke the driver’s license or privilege to drive (for out-of-state drivers).

If this is the driver’s first drunk driving conviction, the driver’s license may be revoked for a minimum of six months. Upon the second DWI, DUI, or OWI conviction within a 15-year period, the driver’s license may be revoked for two years. Upon the third or subsequent drunk driving conviction within 15 years, the person’s license may be revoked for three years. For more detailed information please visit our webpage here, or read further.

Preventing the License Suspension

It is possible to challenge and prevent the suspension of driving privileges. To challenge the suspension, the driver must request an administrative hearing.

During the arrest process, the police are required to give the arrestee a document explaining the notice of suspension. However, many times this document is not provided, nor is the suspension explained. Under those circumstances, notice will be given during the arraignment of the criminal proceeding, which usually takes place approximately three to four weeks after the arrest.

Even if the driver has not received a notice of suspension after the arrest, she should still go to DMV Adjudication Services at 301 C St. NW and attempt to schedule a hearing. Without the notice of suspension, the DMV will likely refuse to schedule the hearing. If this happens, the driver should request documentation from the DMV official stating that she attempted to request a hearing but was denied. If the DMV official does not provide this documentation, the driver should call an attorney and explain the failed attempt to request the hearing. This documentation will prove useful in later adjudication proceedings to show that the driver attempted to adhere to DMV regulations, but was unable to do so.

After the Department receives a request for an administrative hearing, the Department will place the suspension on hold until the hearing. During this time, drivers have the same driving privileges as before the license revocation process began. After the Department receives a timely request for an administrative hearing, it will set the date for the hearing to take place within approximately four to eight weeks.

The first step in the hearing process is to schedule a show cause hearing during which the hearing examiner will listen to the arresting officer, the driver, the driver’s attorney, and possible witnesses. The hearing examiner will then decide whether to revoke or suspend the license based on this testimony and the circumstances surrounding the charge.

If after the show cause hearing the license is revoked, the driver may appeal the decision to the Traffic Adjudication Appeals Board. The appeal must be filed within 15 days of the decision.

Out-of-State Licenses

If a person has a driver’s license from another state, then a DC DWI conviction will be reported to the home state. Once the home state is notified, it may take action against the driver to revoke his license. If the home state chooses to take action, it will send notice to the driver at the address on file. Once this notice is received, a lawyer from the home state should be contacted immediately to explore ways to prevent license suspension.

Each state handles license suspensions differently. In DC, if the suspension results from an unsuccessful administrative challenge, then the suspension is an administrative suspension. If the suspension results from a criminal conviction for DWI/DUI or OWI, then the suspension is a conviction suspension. This is an important distinction since some states will not suspend a person’s license based on an administrative suspension from DC Most states will suspend a driver’s license if the driver was convicted of driving under the influence.

If you have been charged with a DUI, DWI, or OWI, please contact a qualified DC driver’s license restoration lawyer today for a free consultation about your case.

This page is adapted with permission from a publication co-authored by David Benowitz and Jason Kalafat..