Today we learned that we won our most recent appeal before the King County Superior Court. The Court reversed a one year license revocation instituted by the Department of Licensing.
When asked to submit to a breath or blood test, Washington drivers have a statutory right to be told they can seek an independent breath or blood test to challenge the results of the State's test. In our client's case, the client refused a breath test. But the arresting officer in this case could only testify that he “believed” he told the client about the right to get his own independent test; he was not completely sure. The Department's hearing examiner ruled that this testimony was good enough to find that the warning was given, and thus revoked the client's license.
The Superior Court reversed this ruling. The Court ruled that the officer's testimony failed to prove by a “preponderance of the evidence” that the officer in fact gave this required warning.
This appeal decision is important for three reasons:
(1) The case re-affirms the importance of subpoenaing the arresting officer to testify at DOL license hearings. Most DUI lawyers won't do this, and instead rely on the officer's report to fight the revocation. This can sometimes be a mistake. Certainly, there are times where an experienced DUI lawyer can determine that the officer's testimony is not necessary. However, some lawyers simply never subpoena officers at all. Unless you challenge the officer directly through cross-examination under oath, you may never know what issues you can raise to save your license. Here, the lawyer placed the officer under subpoena and was able to preserve this issue for review.
(2) This case re-affirms the burden of proof used in licensing hearings. To comply with due process, the State must prove its case for license revocation by a preponderance of the evidence. Preponderance of the evidence means “more likely than not.” Here, an officer's testimony that he “believed” he gave a mandatory warning failed to meet this standard. Unfortunately, many judges and hearing examiners forget the importance of this standard. This can lead to erroneous license revocations.
(3) This case re-affirms the right of all drivers to have a meaningful hearing before the Department of Licensing. Your license is a valuable property right and cannot be taken from you unless supported by law. The right to a meaningful hearing is lost if hearing examiners disregard testimony of police officers that is either beneficial to the driver or weakens the State's case. Here, the Superior Court judge upheld the protections of due process in her ruling to reverse the revocation.
Our office focuses on DUI representation, before criminal courts and Department of Licensing. We also handle criminal and DOL appeals. This perspective allows us to develop important issues for our clients, as we understand how our representation before judges and hearing examiners can benefit our client on appeal. Our appeal victory today is a classic example of how our firm is uniquely positioned to give you the best representation possible.