If you have a commercial driver’s license, you should be aware of the special rules and penalties for driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs. Whether you hold a class A, B or C license, it was issued by the State in accordance with federal law and regulations. This is because the vehicles you are trained to operate are larger and more complex and can cause much more damage. Therefore, you are held to a higher standard in regard to DUI.
The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) establishes the standards for commercial drivers. Most states, including Tennessee, don’t have separate commercial driving regulations but have adopted the FMCSA’s rules as the law of the state.
The FMSCA has set 0.04 percent as the blood-alcohol limit for commercial drivers. In addition, you aren’t allowed to operate any commercial vehicle within four hours of drinking alcohol. Furthermore, the penalties for refusing to submit to a breath test are substantially greater for CDL drivers. Refusing the test, under FMCSA rules, is equivalent to pleading guilty to DUI.
Aside from the lower alcohol limit, most of the penalties for a DUI conviction are the same for commercial and non-commercial drivers — except that your license suspension could be longer under some circumstances.
For example, a first-time DUI by a commercial driver carrying hazardous materials results in a mandatory three-year license suspension. For an ordinary driver, the license suspension for a first-time DUI is just one year. A second-time DUI conviction for a commercial driver results in a license suspension of 10 years to life, even with no hazardous materials involved.
The loss of your license means the loss of your livelihood
These suspension periods can keep you from working. For one thing, unlike many ordinary drivers, you are required to notify your employer within 30 days of any traffic convictions you receive. This rule includes convictions that occur while you are driving your personal car.
Furthermore, once your employer is notified of a license suspension or revocation, it is barred from employing you during that suspension or revocation period. Moreover, even when you get your license back it can be a challenge to find work as a commercial driver.
If you make a living driving a bus, a delivery vehicle, a semi-truck or any commercial vehicle, you can’t afford to plead guilty to DUI charges and hope for the best. You need to fight the charges. Contact an experienced defense attorney as soon as possible for your best chance at limiting the impact on your license and livelihood.