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How a DUI affects CDL status

Individuals who operate vehicles for commercial or business purposes, such as bus and truck drivers, are held to a much higher standard than non-professional drivers when it comes to driving under the influence. In order to drive a commercial motor vehicle (CMV) in California, an individual who applies for a commercial driver’s license (CDL) must demonstrate specials skills, knowledge and training.

Not only are professional drivers responsible for transporting passengers or hazardous cargo in extremely heavy and unwieldy vehicles, any accident in which the driver was allegedly impaired is a threat to public safety that carries serious liability for the driver’s employer.

Penalties for DUI for commercial drivers

Most states follow the guidelines of the FMCSA for legal limits for DUI’s, and penalties for commercial driver DUI’s are covered under both federal and state laws. Several sections of the California Vehicle Code (CVC) outline restrictions and penalties for commercial driver DUIs:

  • CVC Section §23152 and 23153(d) prohibits CDL holders from driving with a blood alcohol level of .04% or higher, with a presumption of that level if a chemical test is taken within three hours. A first offense will incur a one-year suspension, with a hazmat CDL suspension of three years. Subsequent offenses will result in a lifetime ban.
  • CVC 34501.15 orders commercial drivers out of service for the next 24 hours on testing with a BAC level of 0.01% or more. Violations of this regulation will incur increasingly harsh suspension penalties.

In addition, commercial license holders who refuse a chemical test or who are convicted of §23152 or §23153 offenses can face additional penalties, including temporary or lifetime commercial license revocation.

The impact of a commercial DUI

The effect that a lower threshold DUI can have on a CDL-holder can be devastating and long-term. Not only will their current job be at risk with license suspension, but a DUI that remains on their record may prevent them from being hired by another commercial transportation company.

If you have been charged with a DUI in California, it is possible to mount an effective defense against charges, especially if you were stopped without probable cause or if the arresting officer incorrectly administered field sobriety or chemical tests. Above all, it is essential to find an experienced and effective legal advocate to advise you of the critical first steps necessary to avoid losing your CDL and to find the best defense based on your unique case.

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John Patrick Ryan

John Patrick Ryan has been practicing law for over 20 years. Experienced in criminal law. U.S. Navy Veteran.

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