Department Of Licensing “Death Spiral”

Department Of Licensing “Death Spiral”

I think it was Joe Walsh who famously penned the lyrics: “My Maserati does 185, I lost my license, now I don’t drive…” While Joe was correct in that speeding is one way to lose your license if there are numerous infractions, unpaid or not, there are other ways as well. Below is a review of the “major moving violations,” that contribute to the death spiral, and the creation, or evolution of the Driving While License Suspended, Third Degree, is...


I think it was Joe Walsh who famously penned the lyrics: “My Maserati does 185, I lost my license, now I don’t drive…” While Joe was correct in that speeding is one way to lose your license if there are numerous infractions, unpaid or not, there are other ways as well. Below is a review of the “major moving violations,” that contribute to the death spiral, and the creation, or evolution of the Driving While License Suspended, Third Degree, is discussed on the legal docket. Listen here.

Driving While License Revoked, Second Degree (DWLS 2)

Consider a DUI conviction for instance. Actually, first consider a DUI arrest and charge. This hypothetical Washington DUI charge may arise anywhere in Washington State: any city from Bellingham, Vancouver WA, or Mount Vernon to Walla Walla.  What many Washington drivers in the State do not realize is that the simple charge of drunk driving (DUI) regardless of whether it is alcohol or drug based, will suspend your driver license. Yes, you read this correctly, even before you are even convicted.  The Department Of Licensing (DOL) will deny, suspend, or revoke your license or privilege simply because you were arrested. This, however, requires a few caveats.

First, the DOL suspends your license if you took a breath test with a reading of .08 or higher. It does so based solely upon the police officer’s “sworn report” (a form with boxes checked by the officer) that you were arrested, your rights were read, and your breath test was .08 or more.  The upshot here is: license is suspended if you take the test.  Dammed if you do.

So, what if you don’t take the test and refuse? It only gets worse! Either a flat out refusal by the driver, or, the subjective belief of the police officer that the arrested driver is refusing (a belief by the officer that the person is blowing into the machine improperly).  This will not cause a suspension, but rather it will cause a licensing “revocation.”  A “revocation” is different from a “suspension,” because suspension is for a period not less than 30 days, but no longer than 90 days.  On the other hand, a revocation is a deprivation of a license for at least one year. Therefore, a person with a first time DUI arrest, who provided a breath sample over .08 is subject to a 90 license suspension from the DOL, while the driver who is a first time DUI arrest and refuses, is subject to a one year revocation.  This is all possible without ever actually having been charged or convicted of DUI. Dammed if you don’t!

The crime of Driving While License Revoked, Second Degree, come from this scenario above.  While it appears as if you cannot drive during this time period, you actually can.  You must apply for an Ignition Interlock License (IIL).  However, some people choose to drive even though the license is suspended, without this special license figuring that the consequences if they get caught can’t be that bad.

They are seriously mistaken. First, committing the crime of Driving While License Revoked, Second Degree is a Gross Misdemeanor with a possible sentence of up to one year in jail and a $5,000 fine. In addition to this, if a person is convicted of this crime at a time when they still do not hold a valid driver’s license, the DOL will add another year revocation on to the previous suspension or revocation already in effect at the time of sentencing for the crime if convicted!  On the flip side of this, if the person has a valid driver’s license at the time of sentencing, an IIL included, the Judge, can and usually will, make a recommendation to the Department Of Licensing (DoL) to NOT add a suspension. If you think that it can’t get any worse keep reading.

Driving While License Revoked, First Degree (DWLS 1)

If a person continues drive and continues to get stopped, arrested, and charged with multiple DWLS 2 charges, it only takes a few instances (actually 3 convictions) before a driver is in a position to be revoked for a minimum term of 7 years.  These 7 years are in addition to the prior suspension and if there is a new 1 year term imposed per conviction, and there is 3 conviction the reality is the terms is a 10 year driving revocation!  Once a person hits this status, they are deemed a Habitual Traffic Offender (HTO) and if they are caught driving again, and convicted they face mandatory jail terms beginning at 10 days. This happens because Washington’s HTO statute is structured as follows. There are two ways to become HTO: As stated above, the first way is to be been convicted of 3 major moving violations (i.e. DUI, Reckless Driving, or DWLS 1 and 2, to name a few) within a 5 year period. The second way to achieve HTO status is to accumulate 20 moving traffic infractions within a 5 year period.

Once a person is deemed and labeled by DoL as HTO the mandatory revocation is for 7 years, plus the already pending suspension time.  Consider the unlikely but possible scenario: DUI arrest number one and a driver refuses, gets a 1 year revoke, and during that time, drives again, and arrested for DUI number 2 and again refuses and also gets charged with DWLS 2, and then is again arrested for a third DUI and second DWLS 2.  This will create HTO status.

But before we get there consider the math. First DUI-Refusal  is 1 year, second DUI-Refusal is 2 years, and DWLS 2 is another year for a total thus far of 4 years, and third DUI-Refusal is another 2 years for 6, the companion DWLS 2 is 7 years.  These all have to run before the HTO year revoke even starts for a total of 14 years!  As unlikely as this scenario is, it happens.

As you can see, because the revocation penalties are set up consecutively (as one expires the other takes effect) the cycle can continue until so much suspension time is lined up that an individual will likely die of old age before s/he becomes eligible to regain her/his license.

This accumulation of suspensions for repeated violations of the suspended license laws is something I have labeled the “DOL Death Spiral.”  This is an endless cycle can only be broken by accomplishing the impossible: finding alternative transportation and having the means to pay for all the fees that a person will have generated in spiral.  In this day and age of urban sprawl, poor transit planning and service it is unlikely.

The best defense from such a tragic downward spiral is to drive legally, exercise caution regarding the consumption of alcohol and the rules of the road. As I always say “the best DUI defense is to not drink and drive,” but because it is legal to do so as long as you don’t exceed the .08 limit nor become appreciably affected by the alcohol, citizens will continue to drink and drive, but know the risks.  Anyone arrested and charged with a DUI must retain an experienced DUI Defense attorney who is well trained, in trial skills, qualified in the Standardized Roadside Sobriety Testing,  breath and blood testing sciences, and since the passage of the new approach to marijuana and Initiative 502, a DUI Defense Lawyer MUST be trained in Advanced Roadside Impaired Driving Enforcement (ARIDE) and Drug Recognition Evaluation (DRE) training.  These skills and training are mandatory due to the complexities of the investigation and prosecution of DUI crimes and it is only when they are understood the best defense be asserted and succeed.