Robertson Law Blog

Court of Appeals: Drivers Have Right to Appeal and Obtain Ignition Interlock License

Posted by Ryan Robertson on Oct 04, 2013 | 1 Comments

We are excited to announce our firm's victory before the Washington State Court of Appeals in the case Nielsen v. Department of Licensing. [Click here to read the published decision]    This ruling will affect the rights of drivers accused of DUI who have been subjected to administrative license suspensions or revocations.

The Washington State Court of Appeals has ruled that the law that requires drivers to waive their right to appeal a license suspension/revocation order from the Department of Licensing in order to receive an ignition interlock driver's license (IIDL) is unconstitutional. The impact of this ruling is simple. If a driver has been subject to an erroneous license suspension/revocation, he or she can now appeal this ruling and be assured of the ability to keep driving while they fight the suspension/revocation on appeal.

First, some historical background.  In 2009, the Washington legislature passed a law that gave Washington drivers who violated the Washington Implied Consent law the chance to keep driving so long as they installed an ignition interlock device in their car and obtained what is called an “ignition interlock driver's license.” This law was intended to help people by giving accused drivers the chance to keep driving, while at the same time ensuring public safety through use of the ignition interlock device. However, to get this license, drivers had to give up their right to appeal the license suspension/revocation.

Despite the good intent behind this law, we at Robertson Law were immediately concerned about the consequences of a rule that required drivers to waive their right to appeal. We felt this law was patently unfair: Drivers had to choose between (1) fighting a license suspension/revocation on appeal and not being able to drive, or (2) giving up the chance to fight an unjust license suspension/revocation in order to be able to keep driving for work, school, and family purposes. Considering the economic difficulties of subsisting without a license, as well as rising unemployment rates, it was clear that drivers would have no choice but to give up their appeal rights to secure the opportunity to keep driving. We felt this gave the State entirely too much power over peoples' rights, and gave the Department of Licensing the ability to suspend and revoke drivers' licenses without fear that these decisions would ever be reviewed by a Superior Court judge.

We took action and filed this appeal to challenge the constitutionality of this new law.  We argued that this “appeal waiver” law violated principles of “due process” and “equal protection” found in our Washington State as well as the United States Constitution. After a long fight that has lasted almost four years, we are now proud to announce that the Court of Appeals has agreed and ruled that this “appeal waiver” law is unconstitutional:

Denying to licensees who obtain IIDL's the right to access the courts in order to challenge a Department revocation ruling does not further the state's interest in maintaining the deterrent effect of its drunk driving laws. … Because there is no rational basis for the challenged legislative provision, we hold that it violates substantive due process protections.”

- Judge Dwyer.

We at Robertson Law are proud to take on this fight on behalf of all Washington drivers. If you have any questions about a pending license suspension or revocation, or having any questions about appealing a Washington Implied Consent license suspension or revocation, please call our office and we will be happy to help fight for your rights as well.

About the Author

Ryan Robertson

Ryan is a creative and articulate advocate who limits his practice to criminal appeals and post-conviction relief including vacation, expungement, and sealing of records. He has worked exclusively in the criminal defense field since passing the Washington State bar exam in 1998. Ryan has been recognized as a Rising Star lawyer by Law & Politics Magazine.


Wendy Perkins Reply

Posted Jun 24, 2014 at 22:50:40

Thank you for your fight to preserve our rights. Although driving under the influence is not acceptable, the steps used after sentencing are by far more beneficial to the financial welfare of the state verse rehabilitation. As a Washington resident I feel the DMV has far to much power with little accountability. Punishments are lucrative for the state, but there are many other ways to conquer this problem that may leave a stronger lasting effect. Basically, its all about the money. I enjoyed reading this and look forward to reading about your important victories. At this time I am looking to appeal a DMV decision that is not correct myself.

Thank you.

Wendy Perkins [email protected]

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The attorneys of Robertson Law have a proven track record of creative and effective advocacy for clients throughout the state of Washington.

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Andy Robertson has a proven track record of creative and effective advocacy for clients facing criminal charges throughout the state of Washington. Ryan Robertson's practice focuses exclusively on high-quality creative appellate representation in criminal and administrative matters, as well as expungements, vacation of records, and petitions to seal.