California DUI law is very strict for commercial drivers. If you hold a commercial driver’s license (CDL), you’re treated differently under the law. The two most important differences are:
- You are considered to be under the influence if your blood alcohol level is only .04%. For all other drivers, it’s .08%.
- You are treated as a commercial driver even if you’re not in your commercial vehicle when arrested. The CDL rules apply at all times, in all vehicles.
A DUI will always result in having your CDL suspended in California. This means you will lose your job and be unable to work as a driver until your license is reinstated. That’s why it’s so important to fight your DUI charge from the beginning.
Understanding the “Legal Limit” Double Standard
Let’s say two friends meet at a bar. One of them is a semi truck driver, and the other one does roofing. They watch a game on TV and each have a couple beers. When the game ends they head home. The truck driver is in his normal car, not his big rig.
But on the way home, one of them goes a little over the speed limit and gets pulled over. The officer asks him to take a roadside breath test, and the result is .06%. The result?
- If it was the roofer who was pulled over, he’s free to go. He’ll most likely just be issued a speeding ticket.
- If it was the truck driver, he will be arrested for DUI on the spot.
This double standard cannot be dodged under California law.
Unfortunately, it’s very easy to blow a .04% in a breath test. It can be the result of just one drink. You could even blow a .04% the morning after a night of heavy drinking—when you feel perfectly sober. Most people with this level of alcohol in their system do not feel drunk.
DUI Penalties for Commercial Drivers
All DUI convictions in California include potential jail time, fines, a suspended or restricted license, and mandatory DUI school. But CDL drivers face a tougher time than other drivers. The extra penalties include:
- Your CDL will be suspended for one full year. Compare this to as little as four months for other drivers on a first offense.
- No restricted driving privileges. Most drivers can apply for a restricted license that lets them drive to and from work. But you cannot apply for a restricted CDL. There is no exception for work, even though your job depends on driving.
- A second DUI conviction means you lose your CDL for life.
If you drive for a living, having your CDL suspended means you will lose your job. But even after the one-year suspension is over, you could face other difficulties with work:
- You may not be rehired. Employers are allowed to ask about your criminal record. If you have a DUI conviction, even years ago, they may hold it against you. And when it comes to hiring drivers, many companies do.
- Your insurance will go up. Insurance rates almost always go up after a DUI. If you own your own commercial vehicle this may make it impossible to continue to operate as a driver.
Defenses against a DUI for Commercial Drivers
It is possible to fight a DUI charge and in many cases win. There are several approaches your DUI lawyer can take. The most common is to object to the accuracy of the breath test or blood test that was used to assess your blood alcohol level. This is a very effective tactic in CDL cases because so many of them involve small levels of alcohol—.04% to .07%, an amount so tiny it would be considered legal for anyone else. Chemical tests have a margin of error, and that margin could make the difference between DUI and freedom.
Lawyers can also examine the data and history of a machine or lab for discrepancies. They may be able to get the blood or breath test evidence thrown out. That’s a huge victory for your case.
Last, they may challenge whether the arrest was legal in the first place. There are also dozens of other strategies that can be used, depending on the specifics of your arrest.
How to Fight for Your CDL
Your future depends on your CDL, and if you’ve been arrested for DUI, the only way to keep it is to fight that charge. We want to help. Our site exists to connect you with an experiences Los Angeles DUI lawyer who understands CDL’s. The lawyers we work with have a track record of courtroom experience and successes for their clients—and they offer a FREE consultation. Don’t let a single arrest end your career. Fill out the form to the right and get your free consultation today.