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Will I Lose My CDL After a DUI?

Commercial vehicle drivers have to put up with terrible drivers all the time. In addition to being responsible for their vehicle and anything on board, commercial drivers are also held to higher standards when it comes to alcohol. A drunk driving conviction can impact your job as a commercial driver. If you have a CDL and are arrested for drunk driving in Oakland or the East Bay, talk to an experienced East Bay DUI defense attorney for legal advice.

Drunk Driving Laws for Commercial Drivers in California

Most drivers need a commercial driver's license (CDL) to drive a commercial motor vehicle (CMV) in California. Drivers can get a California CDL through the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV). However, there are federal requirements for CDL applicants in California. 

Drivers have to have Entry Level Driver Training to get a Class A or B CDL, to upgrade to a Class A CDL, or a for school bus (S), passenger (P), or hazardous materials (H) endorsement. Drivers generally need a minimum of 15 hours of behind-the-wheel training and a California Commercial Driver Behind the Wheel Training Certification.  

State and federal regulations take alcohol and driving very seriously. According to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA), "all CDL drivers who operate commercial motor vehicles subject to the CDL requirements on public roads in the U.S. are performing safety-sensitive functions and are subject to DOT drug and alcohol testing. This includes all full-time, part-time, intermittent, backup, and international drivers."

CDL drivers are tested before starting employment and after any accidents. Drivers can also be tested randomly or if there is reasonable suspicion of impairment. Drivers may be tested for:

  • Marijuana
  • Cocaine
  • Opiates – opium and codeine derivatives
  • Amphetamines and methamphetamines
  • Phencyclidine – PCP
  • Blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of 0.02% or higher

If a driver refuses to submit to a drug or alcohol test, they will be immediately removed from driving until they complete the return-to-duty process with a substance abuse professional. 

Driving Under the Influence in a Commercial Vehicle

Under the California Vehicle Code and federal law, it is a crime for commercial drivers to operate a CMV with a BAC of 0.04% or higher. 

Commercial vehicle drivers have given their consent to alcohol testing. Drivers will lose their CDL for at least one year for: 

For a second offense, you will lose your CDL for life. 

Under California Vehicle Code Section 23152(d), "It is unlawful for a person who has 0.04 percent or more, by weight, of alcohol in his or her blood to drive a commercial motor vehicle."

What If I Was Off-Duty With a DUI in a Commercial Vehicle?

According to guidance by the FMCSA, it still counts as a commercial DUI even if the driver was off-duty. "Any person driving a CMV [...], regardless of the person's duty status, must be disqualified if convicted of driving with a blood alcohol concentration over 0.04%."

Can California Commercial Drivers Refuse a Breath Test?

Most drivers in California have the right to refuse a roadside breath test. The preliminary alcohol screening (PAS) device is sometimes known as a breathalyzer. Drivers have the right to refuse the PAS test, and many drivers do refuse because the devices can be inaccurate. However, if the driver is arrested for drunk driving, they will have to submit a chemical test sample. Refusing to submit a breath test will result in a suspended license. 

Drivers in a CMV can't refuse an alcohol test. Under CFR § 382.211, refusal to test has the same consequences as failing a drug or alcohol test.  

Can I Lose My License With a DUI in My Personal Vehicle?

If you are not operating a CMV, you are not generally held to the 0.04% BAC limit. Instead, most drivers in their personal vehicles will not face a per se DUI unless their BAC is 0.08% or higher. However, in some cases, you can lose your CDL for a criminal offense in a personal vehicle. 

Under the Motor Carrier Safety Improvement Act, CDL holders can be disqualified if their regular driving privileges are suspended for traffic violations. If commercial drivers get a DUI in their personal vehicle and their license is suspended, they can lose their CDL privileges for 1 year. A second DUI conviction in a personal vehicle will mean a lifetime ban for commercial drivers. 

Is a Lifetime CDL Ban Really for Life?

In some cases, the state can reinstate a driver's CDL even after a lifetime ban. Unfortunately for California commercial drivers, California is not one of those states that allows for a 10-year reinstatement

In some other states, before the driver can be reinstated, the driver has to wait 10 years and voluntarily enter and successfully complete an approved rehabilitation program. This includes possible reinstatement after a 0.04% CDL violation, blood test refusal, or DUI. 

Talk to an East Bay DUI Defense Lawyer About Your Case

Lynn Gorelick has more than 40 years of East Bay DUI defense experience and understands how much is at stake for commercial vehicle drivers after a drunk driving arrest. She understands how to approach the individual case and defense strategies to avoid a conviction. If you are a commercial driver facing DUI charges anywhere in Oakland, Alameda County, or Contra Costa County, contact Lynn Gorelick for help

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