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Commercial Driver DUI

In the state of California, persons licensed to operate commercial vehicles face more stringent restrictions on the allowable Blood Alcohol Concentration while driving than do standard Class C license holders.

According to the California Commercial Driver’s Handbook, you will loose your CDL for at least one year if:

  • You operate a vehicle with a Blood Alcohol Concentration of 0.04% or higher
  • You operate a commercial motor vehicle (CMV) while under the influence of alcohol or drugs
  • You refuse to submit to blood alcohol testing
  • You operate a CMV while under the influence of any controlled substance
  • You leave the scene of an accident in which you were involved while operating a CMV
  • You commit a felony (e.g., robbery, felony DUI) involving the use of a CMV
  • You operate a CMV while your commercial driver’s license is suspended
  • You are found responsible for a fatality resulting from negligent operation of a CMV
What substances should I refrain from using if I have to operate a CMV?

In the interest of public safety, the state of California wants commercial drivers to operate vehicles in the safest manner possible. This means that if you are under the influence of any substance – alcohol or otherwise – and you are operating a commercial vehicle, you are at risk of losing your license for at least one year. The following substances should be out of your system when you operate your vehicle:

  • Alcohol: As the concentration of alcohol in your blood stream increases, your ability to safely operate a commercial vehicle decreases. Alcohol consumption causes your behavior to become less inhibited, you become less coordinated, judgment becomes poor, and reaction times increase. Eventually, with a high enough BAC, you will lose consciousness, breathing can stop, and you may die.
  • Methamphetamines: Some drivers rely on meth to stay awake for long periods of driving. Although many states and private companies have implemented random drug testing for CDL holders, some drivers do still use meth to reduce needed resting time. Meth use can cause increased anxiety, loss of appetite, and unusual active behavior. Methamphetamines also greatly increase heart rate and blood pressure. Meth users are at increased risk for heart attacks. A catastrophic heart attack while operating a commercial vehicle can result in injury to the vehicle operator as well as any other travelers on the road.
  • Pain medications: Fentanyl, Stadol, OxyContin, Demerol, Hydrocodone, MS Contin, Percocet, Lorcet, Dilaudid, Vicodin, Darvocet, and Zydone are all name-brand prescription pain relievers that are highly addictive sedatives. It is against the law to operate commercial vehicles while under the influence of these drugs – even if you have a prescription. These drugs are also easily available without a prescription. Overdoses of depressive drugs like the ones mentioned can cause significant reduction in respiratory function, including unconsciousness due to lack of oxygen to the brain. Others in the list can cause liver failure when used for extended periods of time.
  • Marijuana: Although it is being legalized in states around the country for recreational use, marijuana does effect the body in ways that have negatively impact cognitive functions required for driving commercial vehicles. THC impairs your judgment, slows reaction time, and can cause memory loss. There are several tests being deployed to determine whether drivers are under the influence of marijuana while driving, but for the most part law enforcement officers are relegated to field sobriety tests only to determine if someone is under the influence of marijuana.
What are the penalties for Commercial DUIs?

One obvious consequence to losing your CDL for a year is that, if you rely on your CDL for work, you will be unable to earn a living. The penalties for first commercial DUIs – and subsequent DUI convictions – are stiff.

The following will earn you a one-year suspension for the first offense:

  1. Conviction for driving under the influence of alcohol
  2. Conviction for driving under the influence of drugs
  3. BAC of 0.04% or higher while operating a CMV
  4. Refusing to submit a blood sample for BAC testing, as required by implied consent laws
  5. Leaving the scene of an accident when you were operating a CMV involved in an accident
  6. Conviction of using a CMV in the commission of a felony
  7. Conviction of operating a CMV while your CDL was suspended or canceled
  8. Conviction of causing a fatality by negligently operating a CMV

A three-year suspension is applied to these violations when the CMV was transporting hazardous materials.

Anytime a driver is involved in the operation of a vehicle in the commission of a felony involving a controlled substance, the driver loses his or her commercial driver’s license for life.

Second convictions of the first offenses listed above will cause drivers to lose their license for life.

Second convictions or DUI test refusals in any separate incident of any of the offenses listed above in a non-CMV, the driver will lose his or her CDL for life.

If you have been arrested for a commercial driver DUI, contact the experienced DUI lawyers at the Johnson Criminal Law Group as soon as possible. We know your livelihood depends on you retaining your commercial driver’s license. Our attorneys have decades of experience fighting for defendants’ rights in these exact situations. Call now!

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