In most states, commercial drivers are held to heightened safety standards. This is true even when it comes to driving while intoxicated (DWI) by or driving under the influence (DUI) of a chemical substance. If you have a commercial driver’s license (CDL) and are charged with a drunk driving charge, what could happen to your CDL? The answer: you can lose your CDL license, and as a result, it can have negative repercussions on your career and livelihood. I
If you are a CDL holder and are arrested for drunk driving, you must take immediate action to protect your license, your future, and your freedom after a DUI arrest. In this article, we discuss what is likely to happen to your commercial driver’s license after a charge of driving under the influence––especially if you don’t seek assistance.
Commercial Driver License & DUI Laws Vary From State-to-State
A Commercial Driver License (CDL) is required to operate certain motor vehicles in all 50 U.S. states and the District of Columbia. To some extent, federal law regulates commercial driving. For instance, the Commercial Motor Vehicle Safety Act of 1986 requires states to set minimum standards for commercial motor vehicle operators. Much of the regulation is conducted by each individual state––as the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) proclaims, U.S. states “are the backbone of Commercial Driver’s Licensing.”
In addition, each state regulates its own DUI laws, even those that impact CDL drivers. There is, however, an important theme running through each state’s laws, and that’s what has already been mentioned above: all states require commercial drivers to meet heightened standards to keep their CDL, and if you are a licensed commercial driver who is arrested and charged with a DUI/DWI, you could lose your CDL.
You need a lawyer who understands your state’s CDL and DUI/DWI laws.
Two Types of CDL DUI Situations: Commercial vs. Personal Vehicle
For commercial drivers, a DUI can occur under two situations:
- While driving a commercial vehicle; or
- While driving a personal vehicle.
When a driver has a CDL and is actively driving a commercial vehicle, most U.S. states have a tougher legal limit for blood alcohol concentration (BAC). In most states, CDL drivers are unlawfully driving under the influence if their BAC is at or above 0.04 percent––that’s half the legal limit for drivers aged 21 or older. Thus, you could be arrested and charged with a commercial vehicle DUI even when you may not have been arrested for a DUI if you didn’t have a CDL and weren’t driving a commercial vehicle at the time of the DUI investigation.
On the other hand, if you are not working and are driving your personal vehicle, you likely won’t be arrested for a DUI if your BAC is below 0.08 percent unless there are other circumstances contributing to the arrest. That said, because you are a CDL-holder, your CDL can still be at risk even when you weren’t arrested while working. It is crucial to understand this key point: administrative agencies may suspend your CDL even if the alleged DUI occurred in a personal vehicle.
CDL Suspension Without a Conviction
After a DUI arrest, a CDL can be suspended in one of two ways:
- An administrative suspension: Most states have administrative license suspension laws in place for DUIs. These laws are especially strict when it comes to CDL holders. Your state’s motor vehicle department may move to suspend your license for a year (or longer) based solely on a DUI arrest.
- Suspension as part of sentencing for a DUI conviction: If you are convicted of a DUI, you will be subject to criminal penalties. These penalties vary from state to state. That being said, a commercial driver convicted of a DUI—whether in a commercial vehicle or in a personal vehicle—will have their CDL suspended.
DUI cases are complex—especially for commercial drivers. An arrest can put your career in jeopardy. An employer may terminate a CDL driver whose license is suspended, even if only for a short period of time. Further, if you are considering a career where you need to obtain a CDL, a DUI conviction can be the end of your commercial driving career even before it starts. In all DUI cases, it’s best to get help from a smart, aggressive DUI defense lawyer as soon as possible.
Are You a Commercial Driver Facing a DUI Charge?
Professional legal representation is available. If you have a commercial license and you were arrested on a drunk driving charge, we are here to help. Contact Restorify by DUI.org today to schedule your free, fully confidential case evaluation. We help you find the right DUI defense attorney for you and your situation, but we also offer a lot more in terms of DUI services and getting you back on the road.