Apr 12, 2019
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How A DUI Affects My Commercial Driver’s License

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Intoxication Laws Are Complex

If you are interested in working in the trucking and shipping industry, you may want to take a short primer before thinking about applying for some training courses. If you have a previous conviction for a Driving Under the Influence (DUI), Driving While Intoxicated (DWI), or Operating While Intoxicated (OWI), you may have to wait two years or more before employers will consider hiring you.

All these charges are mostly the same thing aside from the legalese. They will impact your criminal record and prospective ability to drive a commercial truck if you are intoxicated behind the wheel. The charges count towards your commercial record even if you are behind the wheel of a car, ATV, motorcycle, boat, or any motor vehicle.

And in California, truckers face a minimum level for an intoxication failure if they blow .04 percent in a breathalyzer, half the legal limit for ordinary drivers. To make matters worse, if you are caught in a second offense, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) enforces a lifetime ban on the operation of CDL equipment.

The intoxication does not have to be from alcohol. If it is determined that you are intoxicated on any drugs while driving, you are putting your Commercial Driver s License at risk. Please note that diversion programs will not count towards a DUI or DWI limit because they are regarded as legal nullities expunged from your record upon completion of the class.

If you ever get into trouble with a DUI or DWI charge, you should always hire a lawyer who will settle for nothing less than a diversion program and expungement. These options should still be available if you are facing your first and sometimes even for your second offense if it is an open-beverage container case and not full out drunkenness.

Defenses for CDL Operating While Intoxicated Charges

Because the legal limits for truck drivers can be so low, the attorneys usually attack the reliability and accuracy of the breathalyzer machine. If the defendant is right on the cusp and the device happens to be a point or two off, this can mean the difference between a violation and a close call.

It is not uncommon for a truck driver to get pulled over when he is heading back from a restaurant where he had a drink with his meal an hour ago and still fail. In these situations, the truck driver may have no idea that he is risking his entire career to drive a few minutes back to his home or hotel.

The attorney can also check the history of the machine used and determine whether it was one that tended to be unreliable after a certain period. This can lead to suppression of the evidence gathered from that machine and relied on whether the driver was visibly intoxicated with slurred speech, glassy eyes, and a gross lack of coordination. Because police are now using body cameras more than ever, the video of the defendant appearing to be perfectly sober can be enough to compel a verdict in his favor.

In any case, these elements can be used as leverage to persuade the judge to mitigate the sentence and have the driver plead out to a lesser traffic citation charge with less severe penalties such as false signaling or driving too slow. These are much better than lifetime losses of your Commercial Driver’s License.

What Can You Do If You Already Have Two DUI’s on Your Record?

If you are considering a rewarding career in the trucking industry and you already meet the disqualifications, you should contact a lawyer in your area to see if there is any chance of expunging the records.

Once a charge is 10-year old or has some age on it, there may be opportunities under the law to have them removed from your record. Expungement laws vary from state to state and even court to court. Therefore, you have to determine these issues with a local expert.

Factors That Generally Influence Expungement:

  • The time that has elapsed since charges
  • Level of alcohol in your system
  • The severity of offense as a whole
  • Severity and extent of entire criminal record
  • Rehabilitation
  • Risk of recurrence

Why Are DUI’s So Serious in the CDL Field?

The biggest reason is the insurers. Insurers need to put together a nice narrative to attract underwriters to finance their insurance plans. The insurance agency is more like a marketing and leads front for lenders who want to rely upon their quantifications of risk to determine if they wish to invest their money.

As a result, the insurance companies will charge trucking and shipping companies a higher interest rate if they hire drivers with imperfect records that may lead to claims. Because even a little bit of alcohol can increase the risks of an auto accident when you are driving a heavy-duty truck, insurers try to sell the cleanest package possible.

Therefore, no matter how good you may be at selling your story to an employer, the employer is in no position to explain your situation to his insurance company. And the insurance company doesn’t want to be in any position to explain alcohol and drug-related risk factors as no big deal to investors. This is because insurers are trying to ease the worries of investors to make the risk look as negligible as possible.

As a result, there is no personal malice against people who may have been involved in some awkward situations where they just barely met the intoxication standard while driving a few blocks to their home. But, there is a genuine risk of accidents in drivers who don’t take operating a vehicle while intoxicated laws gravely serious.

What Is More Serious Than Driving While Intoxicated?

Lack of adequate rest is arguably more severe than driving while intoxicated. This is why Federal mandates have now placed a limit on truckers from driving long hours without rest. Currently, all driver’s hours must be logged.

Truckers are only able to work seven days in a row without a break. They must also limit their daily work to a 14-hour duty shift that consists of 11-hours of driving. They must take a break after every 8 hours for at least 30 minutes to stretch their legs and unwind. The truckers must also allow ten full hours between 14-hour duty periods. They are ensuring plenty of time for rest without the stress of competing to meet grueling deadlines.

This saves the industry from deadly accidents because it ensures that there is no economic incentive to push workers. If the workers are all evenly able to work a maximum shift of hours, then, they cannot be exploited by forcing them to compete with each other and some missing a lot of rest.


If you are serious about looking into a job in the commercial trucking industry or you are already employed in such a position, you have to be very careful to avoid drugs and alcohol. Drinking a beer at home and keeping yourself out of any motor vehicles should be a matter of economic prosperity and poverty that can turn on a dime with any trucker. Don’t let all your talent, experience, skills or potential get washed down the drain by some silly mistakes. And if you do run into a situational jam, always be sure to consult and hire the most qualified attorney who understands the seriousness of consequences for your lifestyle.

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