Habitual Traffic Offender in Washington State

Habitual Offender Driver’s License Status in Washington — What to Know and How to Deal with it.

As an experienced traffic lawyer in Vancouver, WA, I know it is very easy to make mistakes while driving. However, if you make too many mistakes over the course of a five-year period you can be found to be a “Habitual Traffic Offender’ and have your license taken away by the Washington Department of Licensing (DOL).
Specifically, RCW 46.65.020, defines a “Habitual Offender” as a resident or non-resident of Washington state, who has “accumulated convictions or findings” that the person has committed a traffic infraction as defined by RCW 46.20.270, or if a person under 18 years old, has violations recorded with the DOL within a five-year period, as evidenced by the records kept by DOL of either:

​It only takes three or more of the following criminal traffic offenses in a five year period for you to become a habitual offender. 1. Vehicular homicide, under RCW 46.61.520; 2. Vehicular assault, under RCW 46.61.522; 3. DUI; 4. Driving While Suspended in the Second Degree, per RCW 46.20.342(1)(b); 5. Hit and Run (Attended, Injury or Death), per RCW 46.52.020; 6 Reckless Driving, per RCW 46.61.500; 7.Being in physical control of a motor vehicle while under the influence of intoxicating liquor or any drug, per RCW 46.61.504; 8. Attempting to elude a pursuing police vehicle, per RCW 46.61.024.

Now most people quite frankly are not involved in vehicular homicides and vehicular assaults. However, all the other criminal traffic offense on this list regularly happen to many people in the local community. And when you factor in the five-year look-back period, there is a lot of time for someone to make a few bad choices and have to pay a hefty price for it with their driver’s license. Also remember, you can lose your license even if you commit no traffic crimes in a five-year period.

Under Washington law, if a person commits twenty or more convictions or findings that the person committed a traffic infraction for separate and distinct offenses, singularly or in combination for offenses listed in Washington Administrative Code (WAC) 308-104-160, in a five-year period.

It is important to note that the twenty traffic convictions can also include any criminal traffic convictions that I wrote about above. Therefore, you could have 18 qualifying traffic convictions and two qualifying criminal traffic convictions, as written about above and you could become a habitual traffic offender.

​One important point under the law is that multiple offenses on the first occasion will be treated as one offense if they occurred within a six-hour period for Habitual Offender purposes.

Another important point in the law is that — No person may be considered a habitual offender under the twenty-violation section of the habitual offender law unless at least three convictions have occurred within the three hundred sixty-five days immediately preceding the last conviction.

Moreover, the Washington Habitual offender law appears to take out of state offenses into consideration under the twenty-violation portion, as it states

“The offenses included in subsections (1) and (2) of this section are deemed to include offenses under any valid town, city, or county ordinance substantially conforming to the provisions cited in subsections (1) and (2) [of this section] or amendments thereto, and any federal law, or any law of another state, including subdivisions thereof, substantially conforming to the aforesaid state statutory provisions.”

It is also to note that there is recourse if you are in this situation. ​

Stay of Proceedings

Under Washington Law, if the offenses that led to your Habitual Traffic Offender Status occurred because of drug or alcohol addiction, you may ask a hearing to have your license revocation not imposed. The Department of Licensing will allow your request if:

  • You’ve been assessed as “substance dependent” (“substance abuse” or “insufficient evidence of substance abuse/dependence” doesn’t qualify). To prove you meet this requirement, you must contact your assessing agency and have them submit a completed Assessment/Treatment Report for DSHS Certified Agencies to our Alcohol Section.
  • Since the last offense, you’ve completed a treatment program or have completed the first 60 days of treatment with current compliance. To prove you meet this requirement, you must contact your treatment agency and have them submit a completed Assessment/Treatment Report for DSHS Certified Agencies to our Alcohol Section.
  • You aren’t in HTO status for violating a previous stay or probation.
  • The offenses leading to your license revocation were caused by or the result of alcoholism or drug addiction.

To request a hearing to not have your license suspended (stayed), go the DOL website, complete a Habitual Traffic Offender Hearing Request form and mail or fax it to the DOL at:

Mailing Address:
Hearing and Interviews Section
Department of Licensing
PO Box 9031
Olympia, WA 98507
Fax: 360.570.4950

Reinstatement Hearing Request:

You may qualify to get your license back if:

  1. You’ve been in Habitual Traffic Offender status for at least four years.
  2. There is no evidence you’ve driven within the past 2 years, ie. no new violations or other evidence of driving in violation of the law.
  3. You have met all alcohol requirements (if any).
  4. You are not suspended for non-compliance with treatment.
  5. At least 1 year has passed since any previous reinstatement requests have been denied.​
  6. To request a reinstatement hearing, complete Habitual Traffic Offender Hearing Request form and mail or fax it to DOL at:
    Mailing Address:
    Hearing and Interviews Section
    Department of Licensing
    PO Box 9031
    Olympia, WA 98507
    Fax: 360.570.4950

    ​If you need help with any traffic related violations, please contact us for a free initial consultation.