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How do I file a Department of Licensing appeal in Washington?

In Washington, you have an automatic right to appeal a Department of Licensing (DOL) hearing examiner's decision to suspend your Washington driver's license to the superior court.  

An "automatic" right to appeal means a superior court judge must hear your appeal.  

The law governing DOL appeals in Washington is found in RCW 46.20.308.  

To file an appeal, you start by filing a Notice of Appeal in the proper superior court.. The notice of appeal is a very brief document simply telling the Court that you are appealing your license suspension.

You also must send a copy of your appeal notice to the Department of Licensing.

Where do I file my appeal?

You must file your appeal in the superior court in the county where you arrested. For example, if you were arrested for DUI in Seattle, you must file your appeal in King County Superior Court.

What does it cost to appeal?

The standard filing fee in Washington for civil appeals is $230, but some courts charge more.  For example, Kitsap County charges $240 and Pierce County charges $290. 

(Keep in mind that a DOL hearing is a civil proceeding, even though it directly results from an arrest for DUI, a criminal offense.  

If you are indigent, you can file a motion asking the superior court to waive your filing fee.

How long do I have to file an appeal?

You must file your notice of appeal within 30 days of the date that the DOL hearing examiner's "final order" is "served" on you This basically means the date on which you receive the DOL hearing officer's ruling against you. 

One crucial thing to keep in mind: This date is not necessarily 30 days from the date your license suspension actually goes into effect, which may be several days if not weeks after the final order is issued, 

If you miss the 30-day deadline, you forfeit your right to appeal. No exceptions. 

What happens after I file my DOL appeal?

After you file an appeal, you have to prepare the record on appeal.  In an appeal, the "appellant" (i.e. the losing party who is filing the appeal) is always responsible for preparing the record.  

"Preparing the record" means getting a court reporter to transcribe the DOL hearing and provide a written copy of the transcript to the superior court and the Department of Licensing. Unless you are indigent, you will have to pay costs of ordering and filing this transcript. You also have to file a copy of the DOL hearing examiner's written ruling in the superior court.  

Next the parties prepare and file their briefs (written arguments) and the superior court schedules oral argument. After oral argument, the Court issues a written ruling either upholding or reversing your license suspension.  

How long does a DOL appeal take?

In general, appeals (not just DOL appeals) take a long time to resolve.  A superior court appeal ranges from 6-9 months, but if appeals continue through the Court of Appeals or the Washington Supreme Court, the appeal period can easily stretch over a year. 

In many cases, your actual license suspension will end before the appeal is actually heard, which may make you wonder why you should file an appeal in the first place. Keep in mind, however, that if you win your appeal, the suspension is erased from your Washington driver's record and the SR insurance requirement is also lifted. 

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