Because you have a commercial driver's license, your legal blood alcohol limit is set at 0.04% by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA). In Tennessee, if you have a blood alcohol level of .04% or more and the vehicle is a commercial vehicle you can be charged with DUI.
That means you can be found guilty of DUI simply because you were at 0.04% or higher. It's what's called a "per se" rule, meaning that if you're found with 0.04% blood alcohol or more, you are automatically considered under the influence. The police officer doesn't have to prove you were actually intoxicated.
The DUI penalties for CDL drivers in Tennessee
If you are convicted of DUI as a commercial driver, even if you were driving your own vehicle, the first things you'll face are the ordinary penalties for DUI.
For example, the penalties for a first offense include between a mandatory 48 hours in jail up to 11 months, 29 days, a $350-$1,500 fine, drug and alcohol treatment, an ignition interlock installed on the vehicles you drive and costs for things like towing, bail, court costs, restitution and the like. The penalties for a second or subsequent offense are harsher.
On top of those penalties, your CDL will be suspended -- and this loss of your license may last much longer than it would for an ordinary driver. The period of suspension also depends on whether you were transporting hazardous materials.
Assuming you weren't, a first offense has a suspension period of at least one year. A second offense, however, can result in your being disqualified from having a CDL for at least 10 years, and perhaps for life.
Furthermore, you're required by federal law to notify your employer of your conviction within 30 days. You're required to notify them of a license suspension within two business days. With a DUI conviction or a license suspension, you're unable to work as a commercial driver. Plus, having a DUI on your record can make it very difficult to find another job driving.
You can't afford to get a DUI
If you're a commercial driver, a DUI -- even one on your own time -- could be the end of the line for your career. Talk to an experienced criminal defense attorney about your situation. There may be a way to limit the damage.