If you have a commercial driver’s license or CDL, and you rely on it to make a living, you want to do all you can to ensure that nothing jeopardizes it.

A CDL DUI can have serious consequences and could take you out of the game for a while or even for life.

First-time DUI offenders can get their CDL suspended for one year. A second offense could result in a minimum of ten years of revocation, or it could even mean a lifetime revocation of your CDL.

This can happen even if you were driving your personal vehicle when you got the DUI.

The DUI laws are tough, which is why you need a tough attorney.

A DUI charge is not something you want to play with. You need to make sure that you have solid legal representation, someone who will fight for your rights and help you navigate the complex legal system.

This is especially true when your CDL hangs in the balance.

You need The Litvak Law firm.

Understanding CDL and Commercial Vehicles

A CDL is a special license that is obtained by drivers who are driving commercially operating either very large vehicles like tractor-trailers, driving with passengers such as a city bus, or transporting volatile or harmful substances. It requires more attention and more care than a personal car because a commercial vehicle tends to have a much greater capacity to inflict harm.

There are several types of vehicles that qualify as “commercial vehicles”:

  • Tractor-trailer
  • Commercial vehicle that
    • Exceeds 10,000 in weight, or
    • Carries 16 or more passengers, or
    • Transports hazardous materials in an amount that required the vehicle to b placarded

Requirements for being a commercial carrier driver are:

  • 21 years old
  • Speak English
  • Physically able to operate a truck safely
  • Hold a valid CDL License
  • Never been disqualified for being convicted of a DUI, felony, refusing to take an alcohol test, or leaving the scene of an accident
  • Must pass a physical exam bi-annually and must not
    • Have insulin-dependent diabetes
    • High blood pressure
    • Poor hearing
    • Poor vision
    • Currently use dangerous substances, including prescription medication and over the counter medicine
    • Have a current diagnosis of being an alcoholic or drug addict. 

Commercial drivers have more stringent laws governing them because they have the potential to cause great harm, including death if they are not vigilant, alert, and sober when they are behind the wheel. When they violate these laws, they can get their license suspended, sometimes for life.

CDL Drivers are Held to a Higher Standard

Every state in the U.S. requires drivers who have commercial licenses to notify their employer within 30 days of any local or state traffic violation. That means any traffic violation, even if the driver was operating a vehicle that was not a commercial vehicle. The violation must be reported even if the incident did not happen in the state the driver lives in. It especially means if you get a DUI.

The reason for this is that the employers of commercial drivers are required to comply with very strict legal regulations when it comes to employing CDL drivers – especially when those drivers have specific violations like a DUI. In certain cases, the employer may be required to put the employee on suspension or terminate their employment.

CDL drivers who are switching jobs are required to provide details of serious traffic violations like DUIs as well as crimes that occurred within the previous ten years. This is all part of the application process and is designed to keep dangerous drivers off the road while protecting the employer’s liability.

A Second CDL DUI Charge Can Have Dire Consequences

People who have a CDL are held to a higher standard so a DUI charge can have serious consequences. This is true for every state in the U.S. 

Getting a CDL DUI can ruin you for life and can mean that you will never be able to drive professionally again. A person who is convicted of a DUI may not be able to get an occupational CDL. Even if they manage to get their regular license restored, they are still virtually unemployable as CLD drivers. A driver with a DUI in their history is a huge liability for an employer, not to mention the exorbitant insurance premiums employers would have to buy to cover a CDL driver with a DUI. It’s just not worth it.

If the driver is operating a commercial vehicle when they are arrested, they are subject to the same punishment as a regular car driver. The difference is the driver of the car is legally impaired when they have a BAC of 0.08%. A CDL driver is legally impaired when they have a BAC of 0.04%.

A second DUI can cause a driver to lose their CDL for life. In some cases, though a driver may be able to apply to have their CDL reinstated, they usually must wait a minimum of ten years before doing so.

The revocation of a CDL for a DUI can occur no matter where the driver gets the DUI. It can be in their home state or in another state. If out of state, that state will report the DUI to the person’s home state.

Federal Law for CDL DUI Charges

Federal laws that govern common carriers and DUI are found in 18 U.S. Code Chapter 17A. Within this chapter three statutes address DUI:

  • 18 U.S. Code Section 341 – Definitions
    • As used in this chapter, the term “common carrier” means a locomotive, a rail carrier, a sleeping car carrier, a bus transporting passengers in interstate commerce, a water common carrier, and an air common carrier.
  • 18 U.S. Code Section 342 – Operation of a common carrier under the influence of alcohol or drugs
    • Whoever operates or directs the operation of a common carrier while under the influence of alcohol or any controlled substance (as defined in section 102 of the Controlled Substances Act (21 U.S.C. 802)), shall be imprisoned not more than fifteen years or fined under this title, or both.
  • 18 U.S. Code Section 343 – Presumptions
    • (1) an individual with a blood alcohol content of .10 percent or more shall be presumed to be under the influence of alcohol; and
    • (2) an individual shall be presumed to be under the influence of drugs if the quantity of the drug in the system of the individual would be sufficient to impair the perception, mental processes, or motor functions of the average individual.

Controlled substances under this statute is any substance that is included in the Federal Controlled Substances Act Section 102. This includes recreational drugs as well as common narcotics.

In addition, the Code of Federal Regulations has clearly defined the terms of a CDL DUI as well as the consequences.

CFR Section § 383.5 – Commercial Driver’s License Standards; Requirements and Penalties

  • If the person gets a DUI for a BAC of 0.04% while driving a commercial vehicle but not on duty, they are still subject to the law and can be disqualified.
  • While §383.51 only pertains to offenses that occur while the defendant is operating a commercial vehicle, they could still be disqualified if the state where the offense occurred has stricter laws that apply to DUI in a personal vehicle.
  • If the person gets a DUI in their personal vehicle for an open container and the state where the offense occurred has laws that make it a DUI, then the driver is still held to §383.51 and is disqualified for one year if it is the first offense.

49 CFR §391.15: Disqualification of Drivers

A driver can be disqualified from driving a commercial motor vehicle if he drives with a blood alcohol concentration of 0.04 or more, drives under the influence of drugs, commits a felony involving a commercial motor vehicle, leaves the scene of an accident while driving a commercial motor vehicle, transports, possesses, or unlawfully uses drugs, refuses to undergo alcohol testing, or fails to notify his employer of a suspended, revoked, or withdrawn permit or privilege to operate a commercial motor vehicle before the end of the business day post-revocation.

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration Standards

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) has established standards for commercial drivers who have CDLs, particularly in regard to impaired driving. Under FMCSA regulations:

  • The legal limit for commercial drivers is a BAC of 0.04%
  • Commercial drivers are prohibited from operating a commercial vehicle within four hours after using alcohol
  • Random alcohol testing may be a requirement for some drivers
    • After an accident
    • Where reasonable suspicion exists
    • As a condition of returning to duty after a violation of alcohol policy
  • Drug testing can be a regular condition for employment, but also when reasonable suspicion exists as well as after an accident and as a condition of returning to duty after a violation of a drug policy
  • Drugs commonly screened for
    • Marijuana
    • Cocaine
    • Amphetamines
    • Opiates
    • Phencyclidine (PCP)

Refusal to submit to a blood-alcohol test by a commercial driver is the equivalent of a DUI guilty plea.

A DUI in a commercial vehicle can also mean a longer suspension of a CDL than a regular driver’s license.

How New York Defines a CDL

In the U.S. it is up to the individual states to regulate and issue CDL licenses, which is why regulations can vary significantly. For instance, some states consider rideshare drivers to be commercial drivers.

The definition of who needs a commercial license in New York is more focused.

New York’s Vehicle and Traffic Law Section 501(a)(1) offers several definitions.

  • Commercial vehicles:
    • Gross weight rating that exceeds 26,000 pounds
    • Designed to transport 15 or more passengers, plus the driver (making it 16)
    • Classified as a bus
    • Used to transport hazardous materials
    • Tow trucks that have a gross weight rating that exceeds 8,600 pounds
    • Has a gross weight rating that exceeds 10,000 pounds and a business uses it to transport property
  • CDLs
    • Class A, B, or C
    • H, P, or X endorsement
    • Different CDL types allow drivers to operate specific categories of vehicles

A person seeking a CDL in New York must already have a New York driver’s license that is in good standing, meaning that it isn’t revoked, suspended, or canceled. If they have a DUI on their record, they are required by law to wait 365 days from the date of arrest for the DUI before they can apply for the CDL.

A CDL is a class A, B, or C with endorsements H, P, or X

New York Law for CDL DUI Charges

Driving any vehicle in New York while under the influence of alcohol or drugs is illegal under New York Vehicle and Traffic Law. However, the state’s per se DUI law is much more stringent when it comes to commercial drivers.

Anyone driving in New York is considered as giving their consent to a chemical test if they are stopped because they are suspected of driving while intoxicated. The chemical testing is conducted by a saliva test, blood test, urine test, or breath test. Refusing to take the test is a crime separate from a DUI crime.

In New York it is illegal for CDL drivers to have a blood alcohol content (BAC) of 0.04%. Any commercial driver who is stopped for suspicion of a DUI and their chemical testing shows a BAC of 0.04% or higher is driving illegally and will be charged with a per se DUI level I. This is an infraction and is the equivalent of a DWAI.

When a commercial driver’s BAC is over 0.06%, they will be charged with a per se DUI level II. This is a misdemeanor and is the equivalent of a DUI.

When a commercial driver’s BAC is 0.08%, they can be charged with a per se DUI and a simultaneous per se DUI for driving a commercial vehicle with a BAC that is between 0.06% and 0.08%. These are also misdemeanors. 

Penalties for Federal CDL DUI

The penalties for a federal CDL DUI are the same as a regular federal DUI, but the threshold is lower for commercial drivers. This can mean up to 6 months in jail and up to a $5,000 fine for a misdemeanor DUI. Felony DUIs can carry fines between $750 and $10,000 and up to 7 years in prison.

Commercial drivers are also subject to a revocation of their CDL for one year or longer.

Penalties for New York CDL DUI

The regular DUI penalties in New York can include fines from $500 to $1,500 and jail time of up to 180 days for misdemeanor DUI to fines from $750 to $10,000 and up to 7 years in prison for felony DUI.

Revocation of the person’s CDL for at least a year is also part of the penalty and the driver may also lose their regular driver’s license.

Often the drivers will be required to install a Certified Ignition Interlock Device.

CDL DUI Defenses

It is possible to defeat a DUI in court. Typically the defense attorney will try to discredit the process and procedure of the stop and arrest. This includes how the evidence was obtained, how and why the person was stopped, as well as how the evidence was handled. Some of the specific defenses for DUI include:

  • Unlawful search and seizure 
  • Lack of evidence that the defendant was in actual physical control of the vehicle
  • Problems with the methods or devices used for testing drugs or BAC
  • Witness accounts of stop and arrest
  • The defendant was not advised of the penalties surrounding the chemical test or refusing the chemical test
  • Illegal stop
  • Invalidate the field sobriety test or show inaccuracies
  • The defendant has a medical condition that mimics the signs of a DUI

If you have been charged with a CDL DUI, it could be a serious blow to your livelihood. Don’t leave it to chance. You need a criminal defense attorney who knows the ropes and can help you protect your livelihood so you can get back on the road and continue providing for your family.

Don’t wait another day, call The Litvak Law Firm at (718) 989-2908 and get the representation you need to protect your rights. Mr. Litvak has the experience and education to present your case and help you get the best possible outcome on your case.

Call today. You can’t afford to try to do this on your own.