DOL (Department of Licensing) Court Ruling

What a recent court ruling means for drivers with failure-to-appear suspensions for non-criminal moving violations-

A court recently ruled that “failure to appear” suspensions for drivers with non-criminal moving violations must be rescinded. Below is information on the ruling and how to obtain more information.

On April 30, 2021, the Thurston County Superior Court ruled that the state law authorizing the Department of Licensing (DOL) to suspend driver licenses of individuals who fail to respond, fail to appear, or fail to pay tickets for non-criminal moving violations (so called “FTA suspensions) violates our state Constitution because it does not require courts to offer individuals the opportunity to have a hearing to present evidence of their inability to pay the fine.

On June 8, 2021, DOL stopped adding new FTA suspensions to drive records.,. On June 16, 2021, DOL began removing existing FTA suspensions for non-criminal moving violations and associated state driver license reissuance fees. In July 2021, DOL will send notification letters to individuals who had one or more FTA suspensions removed from their records.

What is a failure-to-appear (FTA) suspension?

The term “failure to appear,” or FTA, is a generic term commonly used to describe situations in which individuals fail to respond to traffic infractions, fail to pay fines associated with traffic infractions, or fail to appear at court hearings related to traffic infractions.

What type of suspensions does this court case affect?

The case affects only FTA suspensions for non-criminal moving violations. DOL will continue to add FTA suspensions for criminal traffic offenses to individuals’ driving records.

What are examples of non-criminal moving violations?

Non-criminal moving violations are typically those where a fine is imposed but a court appearance is not required unless the driver wishes to contest or mitigate the fine. Some examples are speeding, failure to stop, using an electronic device while driving, disobeying a road sign, and failure to signal.

What are some examples of criminal moving violations?

Criminal moving violations are typically those requiring a mandatory court appearance to resolve the violation. Some examples are violations related to driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs, vehicular homicide, reckless driving, racing, and driving with license suspended or revoked.

Will I have to pay the $75 state reissuance fee?

Reissuance fees related to non-criminal moving violation FTA suspensions are waived per the court’s ruling.

Am I still responsible for paying court fines and fees related to my FTA(s)?

Yes. This court decision only affects suspensions for failure to appear for non-criminal moving violations. It does not eliminate the failure-to-appear findings by courts or the underlying moving violations. Individuals are still responsible for resolving those issues including fees owed with the issuing courts.

What will be removed from individual driving records?

Suspensions related to non-criminal FTAs will be removed from individuals’ records. The requirement to pay a $75 state reissuance fee is also waived. However, the non-criminal offenses the FTAs were based on will not be removed. For example, if an individual’s license was suspended for failure to pay a speeding ticket, the suspension will be removed, but the speeding ticket will not.

Can an individual start driving immediately?

Maybe. People who only have non-criminal moving violation FTA suspensions on their records, have a non-expired driver license in their possession, and have been suspended for six years or less can likely start driving again with no further action. Individuals whose licenses have been expired for more than six years or have other types of suspensions or issues with their records will have to take additional steps. Before driving, check the status of your license on the DOL website.

How can I find out the status of my license?

The easiest way to see the status of your license is to visit the DOL website and click on “Check the Status of a License/ID Card.”

How can I learn what I need to do to get my license back?

The easiest way to learn what you need to do to reinstate your license is to click on “Learn How to Reinstate Your Driver License” on the DOL website. After signing up for or logging in to DOL’s License eXpress service, you can get a personalized report of exactly what you need to do to get your license back.

When will DOL again start applying FTA suspensions to individuals’ records?

The court order will terminate on Jan. 1, 2023, when a new law takes effect (Senate Bill 5226). At that time, DOL will begin suspending driver licenses consistent with the new law.