The attorneys of Robertson Law, PLLC are working with the assistance of attorneys from Williamson & Williams, in a class action lawsuit against the Washington State Department of Licensing. This suit seeks refund of the fees paid by Petitioners who requested a hearing with the DOL to contest a license suspension or revocation due to a DUI-related arrest. It is our sincere belief that requiring a fee for basic due process protections is fundamentally unfair and contrary to law. We will continue to update this site with information about this lawsuit, as it progresses.
Our clients are seeking refunds of the fees paid to DOL to receive a hearing with the Department. This hearing was designed to contest the suspension or revocation which stems from a DUI related arrest. If a hearing is not requested, the suspension typically goes into effect 60 days from the time of arrest.If fees are not paid, the suspensions are mandatory; with no review of the facts to determine whether the suspensions were lawful. Our clients (like thousands of others) paid the fee in order to receive Due Process.In 2012, our clients filed a lawsuit against the State of Washington, specifically the Department of Licensing, asking for their money back, and further sought class certification under CR 23. A King County Superior Court judge dismissed this suit.
At this time, we have made the strategic decision to seek direct review of this decision before the Washington State Supreme Court, bypassing the normal appellate review in the Court of Appeals.Our claims relate to the fundamentally unfair practice of requiring money up front to receive procedural due process. Due process constrains governmental decision-making that deprives individuals of liberty or property interests within the meaning of the Due Process clause. Due process is a flexible concept; but an essential principle is the right to notice and a meaningful opportunity to be heard. Under standards for due process under the Federal and State Constitutions, the State must provide a driver with some form of due process to challenge a proposed license suspension before it goes into effect. This is particularly critical with the important property interest that drivers have in their privilege to drive a vehicle in this state.
Washington voters enacted the Implied Consent law in 1968. This law operates to suspend the driving privileges of any driver following an arrest for DUI. This process is separate from any criminal charges that may follow the arrest. Under the Implied Consent law, the Department provides drivers with the opportunity to request an administrative hearing before a Department hearing examiner, via RCW 46.20.308(8). The process for instituting a license suspension, however, commences with the arresting officer. Once the officer files his or her report with the Department alleging statutory requirements for the suspension have been met, the suspension is mandatory. Unless a driver requests a hearing, the suspension commences with no consideration whether grounds actually exist to justify the suspension.
Beginning in 1994, the DOL began charging a fee for this hearing. Starting at $100; the fee now stands at a shocking $375. A provision allows indigent drivers to request a waiver of this fee, but anyone who does not qualify as "indigent" must pay this fee in order to have a hearing convened. No legal process exists for drivers to seek a refund of this fee once paid, even if the hearing examiner ultimately rules in their favor and the license suspension is cancelled. RCW 46.20.308(8).
The Legislature increased this fee to a shocking $375 effective October 1, 2012. DOL records show that from 2009 to 2011, over 18,000 drivers paid the (then required) $200 fee for the administrative hearing. We are currently awaiting word from the Washington Supreme Court as to whether direct review of this matter will be granted. The case is James Didlake v. Washington State Department of Licensing. The Superior Court cause number is 12-2-25882-1 SEA. The petition for direct review with the Supreme Court has been filed under case number 88774-8. Here is our Statement in Support of Direct Review with the Supreme Court: