Commercial drivers have an obligation to the public to drive safely and responsibly at all times. When these drivers make the unfortunate decision to get behind the wheel after drinking, they put themselves and everyone else on the road in serious danger. As a result of this, DUI convictions for commercial drivers can result in devastating legal consequences that can severely impact their ability to earn a living.
According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, out of the 50,930 drivers in fatal car crashes, an estimated 19% were under the influence of alcohol. This demonstrates the significant risks posed by impaired commercial drivers, and why it's so important to take DUI charges seriously.
In this article, we'll take a look at the commercial driver's DUI penalties and what they can do to protect their livelihood, and how a skilled Chicago DUI defense attorney can help.
How DUI Laws Are Different for Commercial Drivers
The basic rules for commercial drivers are the same as for regular drivers when it comes to drinking and driving. However, there are some additional considerations that commercial drivers must take into account.
A driver must keep their blood alcohol concentration below the legal limit of 0.08% in order to avoid a DUI charge. Exceeding this limit can result in severe consequences, such as fines/financial penalties, jail time, license suspension or revocation, and more.
Additionally, many states have enhanced penalties for commercial drivers who are convicted of a DUI. Commercial drivers who are convicted of a DUI may also be subject to drug testing as a condition of their license.
If the test reveals any trace of drugs in their system, they may face criminal charges or have their professional license revoked. Depending on the state, commercial drivers may face harsher penalties if they are found to be driving while impaired by drugs and alcohol at the same time.
BAC Limits for CDL Drivers
Commercial drivers have more strict limits and can be charged with a DUI if they have a blood alcohol content of 0.04 percent or higher or fail a field sobriety test. They may also face additional charges of possession or distribution of drugs, depending on the circumstances.
Furthermore, commercial drivers can be subject to random drug and alcohol testing by their employers or the Department of Transportation. Any positive test result will trigger a violation and may result in severe penalties.
DUI Penalties for Commercial Drivers
By definition, a DUI conviction is an offense that applies to all drivers, regardless of the type of vehicle they operate. However, there are some additional repercussions for commercial drivers who are found guilty of a DUI.
A commercial driver charged with a DUI faces serious penalties, including loss of their commercial driver’s license (CDL) for at least one year, heavy fines of up to $2,000 for a first offense, and up to $5,000 or more for subsequent offenses.
In addition, drivers of commercial vehicles may be required to complete an alcohol or drug rehabilitation program, and their employers may face stiff civil penalties for hiring a driver who has been convicted of a DUI.
Finally, it's important to note that any DUI conviction will remain on the driver’s record for at least ten years, making it difficult to get future employment as a driver of any commercial vehicle. Getting a good criminal defense lawyer in Chicago is essential in these cases, as they may be able to reduce the severity of the charges and penalties.
Can I Get My CDL Back After a DUI?
Many times, the only way for a commercial driver to get their CDL back after a DUI is to attend an alcohol or drug rehabilitation program and then apply for reinstatement of their license. Depending on the state, this may be a lengthy process and involve multiple steps, such as taking a written test, providing proof of insurance, and demonstrating financial responsibility.
The good news is that some states may allow commercial drivers to obtain an ignition interlock device to help them regain their CDL. This device is installed on the vehicle and requires the driver to pass an alcohol breath test before they can start the engine.
Does the Class of CDL Affect a DUI?
It's important to note that the class of a commercial driver’s license can affect the penalties for a DUI conviction. Generally speaking, the higher the class of license, the more serious the penalties. For example, a CDL-A driver convicted of a DUI may face harsher penalties than a CDL-C driver.
In some cases, the state may revoke a commercial driver’s license permanently, if the offense is serious enough.
Defenses Against DUI Charges
There is a variety of legal defenses that commercial drivers can employ against a DUI charge, especially when there are extenuating circumstances. Here are a few carefully thought-out defenses:
Drivers of commercial vehicles can claim that a medical condition or medication caused them to fail the field sobriety test or have a higher blood alcohol level than expected. In most events, a driver would still be charged with a DUI, but the penalties could be reduced if a medical condition is established.
Unreliable Test Results
Commercial drivers can also challenge the results of a field sobriety test or breathalyzer if they believe it is inaccurate. As an effective defense strategy, a criminal defense lawyer can show that the breathalyzer device was not functioning properly or that the officer conducting the test was not certified.
Lack of Probable Cause
Commercial drivers can also claim that the officer did not have proper or legal grounds to pull them over or administer the field sobriety test. Probable cause must be established in order for an officer to conduct a traffic stop.
Illegal Search and Seizure
Commercial drivers can also claim that their vehicle was illegally searched or seized. For example, if an officer searches a vehicle without a warrant or permission from the driver, it could constitute an illegal search and seizure. This defense must be carefully evaluated by an experienced attorney to determine if it can be successful.
DUI convictions can have serious consequences for commercial drivers. So, Whether it's a personal vehicle or a non-commercial vehicle, it's important to understand the legal consequences of a DUI.
If you or a loved one has been charged with a DUI, it is important to speak to an experienced defense attorney who can help you understand the legal procedures, and your rights and explore available defense strategies.
At Ktenas Law, our legal team is here to help every step of the way! We have extensive experience defending commercial drivers against DUI charges, and we’re prepared to provide the knowledgeable legal representation you need.
Contact us today at (312) 756-8652 to schedule an initial consultation.