California DUI laws are stringent on drivers who operate vehicles while under the influence of alcohol or other drugs. You will get arrested and charged with driving under the influence of alcohol if you drive with a blood alcohol content of 0.04% on a commercial driver's license. One of the most severe penalties that accompany a conviction for commercial DUI is revocation or suspension of your California commercial driver's license. If you or your loved one is facing commercial DUI charges, it is essential to seek legal representation. Our attorneys at the Orange County DUI Defense Lawyer are ready to help you. Contact us today for expert legal representation.
Understanding a Commercial Driver’s License
As classified by the Department of Motor Vehicles, a commercial vehicle is a vehicle that is used and maintained for transporting persons for hire, profit, or compensation. Vehicles used to transport property are also regarded as commercial vehicles. Under DUI laws, the following are the two types of commercial driver's license under which the commercial vehicle drivers lie:
Class B Commercial Driver’s License
A class B commercial driver's license is obtained by individuals who operate large commercial vehicles. These will include any single vehicle whose weight is 26,000 pounds or more and 3-axle vehicles weighing over 6,000 pounds.
Class C Commercial Driver’s License
Drivers of smaller commercial vehicles will often operate on a Class C commercial driver's license. However, if you are driving a commercial vehicle on this type of license, you must obtain a commercial driver endorsement. Some of the smaller commercial vehicles include:
- Passenger vehicles ferrying more than ten people
- School buses
- Tank vehicles
- Vehicles that transport hazardous substances
- Double trailers
However, recreational vehicles, as well as the agricultural vehicles that are driven without a license, are not considered commercial vehicles. To obtain a commercial driver’s license, you must have passed the test and received a regular California Driver's License.
The law of California is stringent on drinking and driving on a commercial driver's license. A conviction for Commercial DUI my cause a suspension or revocation of the license, among other penalties. Also, different driving offenses lead to suspension of your commercial license. If you are facing DUI charges and you don’t want a suspension of your license, contact a DUI defense attorney for guidance.
Offenses that Increase the Risk of Commercial Driver’s License Suspension in California
There are different situations under which your California commercial driver's license can be suspended, as we will discuss below.
A Conviction for Driving Under the Influence of Drugs or Alcohol
California DUI laws seek to punish individuals who drink and operate motor vehicles. You will be arrested and charged with driving under the influence of drugs if your driving is impaired by the use of alcohol or your blood alcohol content exceeds the legal limits.
A driver is considered to be under the influence of alcohol or drugs if their mental and physical abilities to operate a motor vehicle are impaired. When a traffic officer stops your car on a DUI checkpoint or after an accident, they will carry out a field sobriety test to check impairment. You also commit a DUI offense for driving under the influence of other drugs. This could be over the counter medication taken without a prescription or even a combination of both. A traffic officer will stop your car if you are swerving from lane to lane, avoiding red lights, and inability to drive with caution, among other signs.
After pulling you over, they will ask you to perform some physical tests. These tests include standing on one leg, walking on a straight line to ensure that alcohol or another drug does not impair your behavior. At the DUI hearing, the prosecutor will use signs such as alcohol odor, slurred speech, unsteady gait, and red, watery eyes as evidence that you were impaired.
Field sobriety tests are just tools used to determine impairment. The blood alcohol content results are the first piece of evidence that can be used to convict you for a commercial DUI. Therefore, there aren't any legal penalties for failing to take a field sobriety test. However, it is essential to understand that passing the field sobriety test will not protect you from arrest and conviction for driving under the influence of alcohol.
Exceeding the Legal Alcohol Limit
After a field sobriety test, the arresting officer will carry out a Breathalyzer test to obtain your blood alcohol content. If the alcohol content in your breathe exceeds 0.04%, you will get arrested for violating DUI laws. On arrival at the station, your blood sample will be taken since the blood is the most accurate sample when it comes to the alcohol content in your body. As a commercial driver or a holder of a commercial driver's license, you are bound by the law to drive with an alcohol content of less than 0.04%. Also, commercial drivers who operate vehicles with a BAC exceeding 0.08% will receive harsher DUI penalties.
A conviction for commercial DUI under the basis of exceeding the legal limit increases the risk of your commercial driver's license suspension. However, you can challenge the accuracy of these results and the procedure through which they were obtained. If you are facing commercial DUI charges, it is vital to seek the legal representation of an experienced DUI attorney.
The DMV Triggered License Suspension
After an arrest for commercial DUI, your driver's license will be taken away after which you will be issued with a notice of suspension. This notice acts as a document to inform you that you are entitled to a DMV hearing. You have up to 10 days to request the DMV hearing to contest the suspension of your commercial driver's license. Failure to request for this hearing within the given time, your commercial driver's license will be automatically suspended.
A DMV hearing is an informal hearing held at the Department of Motor Vehicle to suspend your driver's license. To schedule the trial, you should contact the DMV offices. During the hearing, evidence collected by the arresting officer, including the results for chemical tests will be presented. You are also entitled to review and challenge evidence that was brought against you by cross-examining the witnesses, even the arresting officer. Also, you can present witnesses who had seen things differently or even testify for yourself.
If you want to schedule a DMV hearing, it is essential to be represented by a DUI attorney. Guidance from a competent attorney may increase your chances of keeping your commercial driver's license. If you win the DMV hearing, the DMV will set aside the suspension of your California Commercial driver's license. You will be able to use your license until your criminal case is heard. However, Losing the DMV hearing will cause the suspension of your commercial driver's license.
Court Imposed CDL Suspension
The criminal hearing and DMV hearing after an arrest for commercial DUI are closely related. However, the decision of the DMV will not affect your criminal case. The court imposed license suspension will be dependent on whether or not you get convicted for commercial DUI. If you get convicted for a commercial DUI offense, the period of license suspension will depend on your criminal history and the nature of the offense.
Since commercial drivers are held to a more stringent standard of safer in California, a conviction for commercial DUI will lead to an increased period of license suspension. For a first commercial DUI offense where no third party was injured, your commercial driver's license will be suspended for one year. On the other hand, a second Commercial DUI conviction can cause a permanent revocation of the commercial driver's license. The court will either charge you with commercial DUI as a felony or a misdemeanor. A misdemeanor charge will attract one to three years of license suspension. If charged as a felony, California commercial DUI can cause up to five years revocation of your driver’s license.
After a commercial driver's license suspension in California, you cannot acquire a restricted driver's license to operate a commercial vehicle during the suspension period. However, you can obtain the restricted license by downgrading to a non-commercial vehicle class C license. The limited license will enable you to:
- Drive yourself to and from work
- To visit or take a family on a doctor's appointment
- Driving a minor dependent to school
- Driving to DUI school or any other program imposed by the court as part of penalties for commercial DUI.
Also, you can downgrade your commercial license to obtain an ignition interlock device restricted license. This allows you to drive a private vehicle anywhere as long as the IDD is in place.
Refusal to Submit to Chemical Tests
Under the implied consent of California DUI law, you have the right to take or refuse the chemical tests. However, failure to submit to the post-arrest chemical tests has severe legal consequences. Unless you are under the age of 21 years old, you cannot be charged for failing to take the preliminary alcohol test. However, the case is different for blood tests. Without a warrant, the arresting officer cannot force you to submit to the chemical tests. Doing this would violate your rights, making the results of these tests unreliable.
If you refuse to take the blood test after an arrest for commercial DUI, your commercial driver's license will be automatically suspended. If after refusing to take the test you get convicted for commercial DUI, your penalties will be enhanced. You have ten days after the arrest to request a DMV hearing to contest the suspension of your driver's license for refusing the chemical tests. During the hearing, the arresting officer will present the reasons why they believe you were intoxicated. Also, the facts of whether you were lawfully arrested will be discussed.
The prosecutor will consider whether the officer informed you of the possible license suspension for failing to take the tests. If they can prove that all these legal guidelines were followed but you still willingly failed to take the test, your license will automatically be suspended for one year.
Driving without a Valid Driver’s License
If you decide to operate despite the suspension of your commercial driver's license, you will face severe consequences. Under California Vehicle Code 23152, you are not entitled to a restricted license after suspension of your commercial driver's license. Therefore, driving on a suspended license or without a license is an offense. If you are convicted of driving without a license or on a suspended license, your commercial driver's license will be suspended for a period equal to the initial suspension or revocation. The suspension period will begin after the expiration of the initial suspension.
Accumulation of Points
When you commit a traffic or other criminal violations in California, you will receive points to your record. The number of points you get to your file will be determined by the type and severity of the offense you committed. However, it is essential to understand that if you are a commercial driver’s license holder, you will get 1.5 points for every 1 point violation. Accumulation of a given number of points within a specific period will cause a suspension or revocation of your commercial driver's license. The following are some circumstances you may have your CDL suspended:
- Getting at least four points to your record within twelve months
- Receiving six points within two years
- Accumulating eight or more points to your file within three years.
Defending the Suspension of your Commercial Driver’s License for DUI
Getting arrested and charged for DUI does not automatically cause a suspension of your driver's license. For the court-imposed suspension, the outcome of the criminal case will affect the suspension. On the other hand, a DMV suspension will be dependent on the defense you present at the DMV hearing. With the help of your California DUI attorney, you can show the following arguments to fight a license suspension for commercial DUI:
Symptoms Observed were not from Alcohol or Drug Use
During the hearing, the prosecutor will use observations made in the field sobriety test to prove that you were intoxicated. Your physical appearance will play a significant role in the DUI investigation. However, having watery eyes, slurred speech, or flushed face may be symptoms of other conditions. You can argue that you have an allergy that made your eyes red and watery. Also, the alcohol content detected in your blood resulted from a medical condition.
You can also claim that failing a field sobriety test does not mean you were intoxicated. This is because you may naturally lack coordination and balance due to your physical body properties. With the help of a DUI attorney, you can successfully present this defense and possibly protect your commercial license from suspension.
The Arresting Officer Did Not Follow the Right Procedures When Arresting you for DUI
When making an arrest, there are regulations that an arresting officer should follow to ensure that your rights are not violated. This will include allowing you to choose whether to take the tests or not and reading you the Miranda. Also, when carrying out the field sobriety test, the observation should be made for at least 15 minutes. If any of these protections were violated, the information collected might be suppressed during the hearing. This is by excluding the evidence that was unlawfully collected or giving a pretrial opportunity to illuminate the gaps in the prosecutor's case.
Your Conduct was not Influenced by Alcohol
If you believe that the alcohol you consumed did not affect how you were driving, you can use this as a defense. Sometimes you pass the field sobriety test, but your BAC exceeds 0.04% which is the legal limit for commercial drivers. You can argue that passing the field sobriety test was proof that your driving was not affected by alcohol or drugs.
Rising Blood Alcohol Content
Increasing blood alcohol is a common and useful DUI defense. If you had a rising BAC at the time of arrest, the results of your chemical tests might be wrong. This is because the BAC may have reached and exceeded the legal limit the period between your arrest and investigations. You can argue that your BAC was within the legal limit at the time you drove.
Disregard Accuracy of Breathalyzer Tests
False high BAC results can be a ground for a successful legal defense to commercial DUI charges. Before the officer conducts the breath test, they need to observe you or at least fifteen minutes to ensure you do not consume anything that may compromise the results. The accuracy of California DUI breath tests will rely on the measurements of deep lung air. Sometimes alcohol in the mouth can cause an abnormally high BAC content, registering false results.
Also, failure to regularly check and repair the Breathalyzer device can cause an error in the reading. By contesting the validity of the Breathalyzer results, you can invalidate this evidence in your DUI case.
Medical Conditions Inflating your BAC
Our bodies obtain fuel from carbohydrates which may be broken down by the body to form ketones during fasting or when one suffers from diabetes.
Ketones are detected as alcohol during breathe testing. This is because the Breathalyzer device does not differentiate the two. You cause the medical argument as a defense for the high blood alcohol content found in your body in a commercial DUI case.
Commercial Driver's License Suspension FAQ
The following are some of the most frequently asked questions about the suspension of your commercial driver's license in California:
Will my commercial license get suspended if I get convicted for DUI in a passenger vehicle?
Yes. You do not need to be convicted of driving a commercial vehicle for your commercial license to be suspended. If you are sentenced for impaired driving while on a passenger vehicle, your commercial driver's license will be suspended for one year. However, to lose your commercial license, you must be driving your passenger vehicle with a blood alcohol content of 0.08% or more.
What are the effects of subsequent DUI Convictions on my commercial Driver’s License?
A conviction for a first DUI offense will cause a one-year suspension of your commercial driver's license. California DUI laws do not tolerate repeat offenders of DUI. A second conviction for DUI will create a lifetime revocation of your commercial driver's license. With the help of a competent attorney, you can fight to reduce the lifetime disqualification to reinstate your CDL 10 years. However, third time DUI offenders do not have a chance at restoring the license after ten years.
How should you reinstate your Commercial Driver’s License after the Suspension Period in California?
Once the suspension or revocation period of your commercial driver's license ends, you can get your driving privileges back. First, you need to pay reinstatement fees and apply for a new license. The cost you pay to reinstate your license will be determined by the reason for your conviction. Also, you may be expected to retake a driving test as part of the commercial driver's license application.
Does the commercial license Suspension apply if you were transporting hazardous materials?
Yes. If you get convicted for DUI on a commercial vehicle while transporting hazardous material, your commercial driver's license may be suspended for up to three years.
Find a DUI Defense Attorney Near Me
A suspension of your commercial driver's license will affect your daily life, especially your job. There are different circumstances that can lead to suspension of your license. A conviction for DUI, driving without a license, and refusal to submit to chemical testing are common reasons for the suspension of your commercial driver's license. However, with the help of a competent DUI defense attorney, you can present defenses that may allow you to retain your driving privileges. If you are facing commercial DUI charges in Orange County, you will need the Orange County DUI Defense Lawyer by your side. Contact us today at 720-820-9595 to discuss the details of your case.