Can You Drive with a Punched License?


I was recently presented with a situation where a client was arrested for a DUI and the arresting officer punched her license and told her that she could no longer drive.  What does this mean if the person’s privilege to drive has not been suspended yet?

Generally, once you are arrested on a DUI in Washington your license will be suspended in 60 days unless you request a DOL hearing or file an intent to seek deferred prosecution.  You can look up the status of your license at any time here.  So, even though the officer has punched your license, your privilege to drive has not been suspended.  A look at the Revised Code of Washington provides some help.  RCW 46.20.308 (6)  states that

     (6) If, after arrest and after the other applicable conditions and requirements of this section have been satisfied, a test or tests of the person’s blood or breath is administered and the test results indicate that the alcohol concentration of the person’s breath or blood is 0.08 or more if the person is age twenty-one or over, or 0.02 or more if the person is under the age of twenty-one, or the person refuses to submit to a test, the arresting officer or other law enforcement officer at whose direction any test has been given, or the department, where applicable, if the arrest results in a test of the person’s blood, shall:

(a) Serve notice in writing on the person on behalf of the department of its intention to suspend, revoke, or deny the person’s license, permit, or privilege to drive as required by subsection (7) of this section;

(b) Serve notice in writing on the person on behalf of the department of his or her right to a hearing, specifying the steps he or she must take to obtain a hearing as provided by subsection (8) of this section and that the person waives the right to a hearing if he or she receives an ignition interlock driver’s license;

(c) Mark the person’s Washington state driver’s license or permit to drive, if any, in a manner authorized by the department;

(d) Serve notice in writing that the marked license or permit, if any, is a temporary license that is valid for sixty days from the date of arrest or from the date notice has been given in the event notice is given by the department following a blood test, or until the suspension, revocation, or denial of the person’s license, permit, or privilege to drive is sustained at a hearing pursuant to subsection (8) of this section, whichever occurs first. No temporary license is valid to any greater degree than the license or permit that it replaces; and

The law here seems to indicate that by marking the license (which is presumably punching the license) the officer is indicating that the license is temporary and is set to expire, therefore, a person may still drive with that license.

In trying to straighten this out, I sent an email to the DOL requesting clarification on this issue.  I received a response saying that a punched license is no longer a valid license and if a person would like to drive while their DOL hearing is pending, they will have to go to the DOL and pay $20 for a new license.

This seems like an unnecessary step that just further confuses the DUI process and creates more work for the DOL and driver.  Why invalidate a license with a pending DUI if the driver can just go back to the DOL immediately and order a new license?  This is just another example of the convoluted law surrounding license suspensions in Washington.  To be safe, I advise my clients to get a new license.  More than half the time, the DOL will tell them that they do not need one yet.

I followed up on this issue and another DOL representative confirmed that a punched license is a temporary license, which expires in 60 days.  The representative also acknowledged that there is plenty of confusion about this issue and that police will sometimes get the law wrong and cite someone for driving with a punched license.

Leave a Reply