Ignition Interlock Device and driver’s license suspensions for DUI related offenses

For a DUI, or a reduced charge, determining the amount of time a person is required to have an ignition interlock on their vehicle, and the length of a driver’s license suspension, is complex and depends on multiple factors. I encourage you to contact me for further assistance. I have discussed how the DOL hearing can have an affect on this analysis, as well as outlining the situations where the court may require an ignition interlock device at arraignment. Below are some of the important statutes that also play a factor.

Length of time the ignition interlock is required. RCW 46.20.720 outlines the length of the ignition interlock requirement for a DUI offense. The Washington Court’s DUI Sentencing Grid has an excellent summary of this statute, as well as other applicable statutes. While a number of factors can play in, the simple rule is an ignition interlock device is required for one year on a first offense DUI, five years on a second offense, and ten years for a third offense.

Which ignition interlock company go to use. There are a variety of ignition interlock companies in the greater Seattle area. While there is not a tremendous variation in prices, there are differences in service. Contact me to know which ignition interlock companies to avoid. Pick a location that is close to where you work and/or live because you will have to return for regular calibration of the device.

Driving license suspension and the Ignition Interlock License. A conviction for DUI will also include a period of time where your driver’s license is suspended. Previously, the license suspension meant you simply could not drive. However, the legislature realized that people will drive regardless of whether their license is suspended or not, so we now have the Ignition Interlock License that allows you to drive during the period of suspension (only available if you have a Washington driver’s license and only permits you to drive in Washington State). For a DUI conviction, there will be a period of time where you will need an Ignition Interlock License and after that, a period of time where you get your plastic license back, but still need the ignition interlock device on your vehicle. But again, you can drive in both situations, whenever you want, wherever you want in Washington State, so long as you have met the DOL’s various requirements.

To obtain an Ignition Interlock License, you must have the ignition interlock on your vehicle, SR 22 insurance, and submit the Restricted Driver License Application to DOL, along with the $100 application fee. SR 22 insurance is proof that you have insurance, which is submitted by your insurance company to DOL. It is a service provided to you by your insurance company, and therefore, your insurance company will charge you for this service. RCW 42.69 requires SR 22 insurance during the period of suspension, and for three years after the period of suspension. So if your license is suspended for any length of time, you will need SR 22 insurance for at least three years. Your license will be suspended for a DUI conviction, a Reckless Driving conviction, and a DOL hearing loss. So most people arrested for DUI will need SR 22 insurance.

Does the time you had an ignition interlock on your car prior to a DUI conviction count towards the time required after a DUI conviction? There are a variety of reasons a person may have installed an ignition interlock on their vehicle prior to being convicted of DUI. For instance, the court may have required it at arraignment, the person lost the DOL hearing, or the person voluntarily installed the device. The good news is for DUI convictions, RCW 46.20.385 provides you get credit for the time you had the ignition interlock on your vehicle prior to being convicted. The law is complex and it is imperative to consult an attorney to ensure you can take advantage of this statute.

Can I sit out the license suspension, not drive my car, and avoid having to install the ignition interlock device? For a DUI conviction the answer, unfortunately, is no. For a first offense DUI, you can wait out the first eight months of the ignition interlock period, but you must have an ignition interlock installed in a vehicle in your name for at least the last four months of the time period. On top of this, RCW 46.20.720 requires four months of perfect compliance with the ignition interlock device before you can be approved to remove the device. The legislature leaves it up to the ignition interlock company to determine if there is a violation (and if they had it their way, you would be forced to keep the ignition interlock on your car for the rest of your life).

Employer Exemption for Work Vehicles. RCW 46.20.720 provides that so long as you have the ignition interlock device in your personal vehicle, and have a valid license, you can drive work vehicles without the ignition interlock for work purposes only. To take advantage of this exemption, you must submit this form to DOL. It is also a good idea to read over RCW 46.20.720 to understand the various limitations of this exemption. For instance, if you are convicted of a first offense DUI, there is a wait period of 30 days before the exemption can take effect. For a second or subsequent DUI conviction, the wait period is 365 days. I wrote about how complicated and nonsensical the work vehicle exemption law is on my blog.

Habitual Traffic Offender. A habitual traffic offender (HTO) is a driver who, within a 5-year period, has been convicted of 3 or more offenses listed in RCW 46.65.020(1) or found to have been convicted of or committed 20 or more moving violations listed in WAC 308-104-160. If you become HTO, you will have your license revoked for a period of seven years. I call offenses listed in RCW 46.65.020(1) HTO strike offenses. Both DUI and Reckless Driving are a HTO strike offenses. If you drive during a period suspension, without the Ignition Interlock License, and get caught, you will be cited for Driving While License Suspended in the Second Degree (DWLS 2nd), which is also a HTO strike offense. So while HTO status is normally reserved for repeat DUI offenders, it can also occur after a first offense DUI if the person refuses to follow the law.

Types of license suspensions. Under Washington State law,  a person’s license can be suspended in either the First, Second, or Third Degree. First degree is the most serious suspension and reserved for those labeled Habitual Traffic Offender status (see above). Second degree is the next most serious. This is the status of your license after it has been suspended due to a DUI or Reckless Driving conviction, or for other various criminal offenses. The good news is you can drive even if your license is suspended in the second degree if you obtain the Ignition Interlock License (see above). Third degree is least serious and can be caused due to a variety reasons. Most of these occur when you the owe the government money. By definition, you can lift a third degree suspension by just paying off who you owe money to.

How to get your license back after a DUI conviction. As discussed above, a DUI conviction will require an ignition interlock on your vehicle for a minimum of one year and SR 22 insurance for three years. Also discussed above is the four month rule where you must have perfect compliance with the interlock before DOL will allow you to remove the device. Other requirements to reinstatement your license include having your treatment provider submit an Assessment/Treatment Report for DSHS Certified Agencies to DOL. If your suspension was for a year or more, DOL will require you to retake the driver’s ability test.

One of the most helpful links out there is DOL’s driver status check link. Use this link to determine whether your license is suspended and what you have to do to get the suspension lifted.

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