California DUI law is very strict for commercial drivers. There is often little leeway for commercial drivers if they get arrested for a DUI. If you hold a commercial driver’s license (CDL), you’re treated differently under the law compared to the average person holding a standard license.
A DUI will always result in having your CDL suspended in California. Unfortunately, this means you will lose your job and be unable to work as a driver until your license gets reinstated. That’s why it’s so important to fight your DUI charge from the beginning.
How DUI Law Works for Commercial Drivers
Under California Vehicle Code (CVC) §23152, driving with a blood alcohol content (BAC) of .08% or higher is illegal. Because commercial drivers often drive larger vehicles, sometimes with hazardous cargo, the law holds them to a higher standard. Commercial truck accidents can cause severe accidents.
As further defined in CVC §15210, commercial drivers are under the influence when their BAC is at .04% or more. This is half the amount for regular drivers. Thus, while in theory, this law is meant to ensure that deadly accidents don’t happen, in reality, it only creates a double standard that unjustly punishes responsible commercial drivers.
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 more challenging time than other drivers. The extra penalties include:
- Your CDL will get 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.
- Possible loss of your license. 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 get barred from being a commercial driver. Employers are allowed to ask about your criminal record and if you have a DUI conviction, even from 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.
As you can see from the penalties above, getting a DUI can negatively impact your life immensely if you have a CDL. A double standard exists for commercial drivers that regular drivers don’t have. You shouldn’t allow these penalties to go unchallenged.
Does the Class of a Commercial Driver’s License Matter?
There are two types of CDLs in California, class C, and class B. Class C commercial drivers operate smaller vehicles such as:
- School buses
- Double trailers
- Passenger vehicles that carry ten or more people
- Tank vehicles
Class B drivers typically drive larger trucks that deliver cargo across the state or country. The penalties outlined by the CVC don’t apply to anyone specific class. In general, both class B and class C CDL holders will face the same types of penalties.
Also, keep in mind that RVs and certain agricultural vehicles don’t require a CDL. So if you’re arrested for a DUI while driving these vehicles, the commercial driver standards for BAC won’t apply to you.
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 has a couple of beers. When the game ends, they head home. The truck driver is in his regular 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 got pulled over, he’s free to go. He’ll most likely just be issued a speeding ticket. If it were the truck driver, he would get 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.
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 gets 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. In addition, 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. As a result, 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 for beating a DUI that can be used, depending on the specifics of your arrest.
A Los Angeles DUI Attorney Can Help You Fight for Your CDL
Your future depends on your CDL, and if you got 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 experienced Los Angeles DUI lawyer who understands how to fight hard for commercial drivers. There are many legal options available for DUI cases. Allow our attorneys to help you today.
Get in Touch with a DUI Lawyer in Los Angeles Today
Our Los Angeles DUI lawyers can assist you in many ways. We will help you gather evidence pertaining to your case, consult with experts and witnesses, and represent you and your best interests in court. To get a free consultation, please get in touch with us online or over the phone to learn more. There is no risk or obligation when you reach out to our team.