I recently spoke with someone who had been arrested for DUI. Because his breath test result was (allegedly) over .08, he was facing a 90 day license suspension from the Department of Licensing (DOL). He told me that his friends all advised him that it would be a waste of money to request a hearing to challenge the suspension. After all, the current fee to request a hearing is $375 (up from $200 effective October 2012) - no small amount. "Why should I spend $375 when I know I blew over .08?" he asked me.
There are several reasons why.
First: if you do not request an administrative hearing, you have NO chance to challenge the suspension. When the officer says that your license will be "automatically suspended," that's what he - and the DOL - are counting on - the person just giving up without challenging the suspension. You've basically handed an easy "victory" over to the cop and the DOL. Sadly, I suspect this is what most folks do (especially those who aren't represented by an attorney). Don't be one of them - don't give in without a fight!
Second: these hearings can be beat. It's tough, and to be honest the odds are against you. But with a skilled DUI attorney your odds improve greatly. A skilled attorney who handles DUI on a regular basis, and DOL hearings in particular, should be familiar with the issues and can spot holes in the officer's report. Did the officer establish a lawful basis to stop you? He may simply say you were travelling at a high rate of speed without indicating how he was able to determine this, what your speed was, or what the posted speed limit was. In which case, the Hearing Examiner may find a lack of evidence to support the stop, suppress everything that followed including the breath test. Without a breath test, the suspension will be cancelled. There may be a problem with the way the officer conducted the breath test itself - or he may have done it properly, but forgot to fill in required information in the police report, like the time he checked your mouth. That could very well lead to the breath test being thrown out, and the suspension cancelled.
Finally, if your attorney decides the best strategy is to subpoena the officer, and the officer doesn't show up for the hearing without a good reason, it was almost certainly result in cancellation of your suspension. I have had this happen on several occasions and believe me, my clients were more than happy they invested that $375. Third: if you win, and avoid a suspension, you avoid the much higher costs associated with Ignition Interlock, restricted licenses, and insurance. $375 is no small amount. But say you're facing a 1 year suspension because the officer says you "refused" the breath test. In order to drive during that time, you will need an Ignition Interlock Device installed (IID) in your car at $90/mo; you will need to apply for an Ignition Interlock License (IIL) which costs $100, and in most cases, you will need SR-22 insurance for THREE YEARS FOLLOWING the suspension. Even a typically low rate ($45/mo) will cost you over $2000 over the time you need SR-22 coverage. Finally, if suspended or revoked you will have to pay a DOL reinstatement fee ranging from $50 to $150 or more. That's an estimated total of over $2500.
There aren't many absolutes when it comes to DUI legal advice. If you have been arrested and facing a 90 day (or longer) suspension, however, you should absolutely request a hearing to challenge the suspension.