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DUI and Commercial Drivers: Unique Challenges and Consequences

By San Diego Attorney on August 10, 2023

A cup of whiskey next to a set of car keys

Driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs is a serious matter in California under any circumstances. Commercial drivers are subject to more oversight and much stiffer penalties than other drivers. A conviction of a commercial driver DUI can mean the loss of your commercial driver’s license (CDL) and a significant impact on the ability to earn a living.

How Is Commercial Driver DUI Defined and What Are the Consequences?

Under California law, commercial drivers are prohibited from driving a commercial vehicle with a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of .04% or higher. This differs from the legal limit for passenger vehicle drivers of .08%.

A DUI conviction can carry penalties, including up to one year in jail, fines of up to $1,000, and up to 36 months of DUI school. Penalties for commercial DUI may include CDL suspension for one year, suspension of driving privileges for non-commercial vehicles, and required installation of an ignition interlock device. Suspension of your commercial driver’s license can mean the loss of your job.

Common Defenses Against Commercial Driver DUI

Prosecutors must prove charges of driving under the influence against commercial drivers as they would against any driver. They generally rely on the testimony of arresting officers and other witnesses and chemical testing results. Our experienced DUI defense attorneys can challenge the prosecution’s case and build a strong defense strategy to achieve the best outcome for our clients. Common defenses against these charges include lack of probable cause, insufficient evidence, and faulty testing procedures.

What Is the Importance of a CDL?

A commercial driver’s license is essential for any commercial driver. You must have one to drive a truck or operate any commercial vehicle. Even one DUI conviction on your record can mean a downgrade to a non-commercial license.

Although some truck drivers may obtain restricted licenses, they are still subject to disqualification of on-the-job driving privileges per FMCSA regulations. Trucking companies cannot knowingly allow or authorize a disqualified driver to operate a commercial motor vehicle.

The Role of a San Diego DUI Defense Attorney

Your San Diego DUI defense attorney can work to protect your CDL and help minimize the impact of a commercial driver DUI on your career.

To strengthen your defense, your legal representative can challenge the accuracy and reliability of BAC and sobriety tests. This may involve questioning the administering officer’s qualifications, the testing equipment’s reliability, or the blood sample’s chain of custody.

Your criminal defense attorney can further help your case by negotiating with the prosecution, filing pre-trial motions, or presenting a solid defense in court.

How Is Blood Alcohol Concentration (BAC) Testing Done?

Various methods are used by law enforcement to test a driver’s BAC and sobriety. These methods include:

  • Breath tests: The driver blows into a disposable mouthpiece on a breathalyzer device. After approximately one minute, the device will read zero, pass, warn, or fail based on the amount of alcohol detected.
  • Blood tests: A blood sample is taken with a needle from the driver’s vein and sent to a lab for testing. Blood alcohol concentration is determined by the amount of alcohol in the sample.
  • Field sobriety tests: Police officers ask drivers to perform specific physical and mental exercises by the side of the road to help them determine impairment. These exercises may involve walking a straight line, standing on one leg, and following a moving object with your eyes.

Contact jD Law Criminal Defense Attorneys for Top-Tier Legal Representation

If you are facing commercial driver DUI charges in San Diego, jD Law Criminal Defense Attorneys is here to provide the skilled legal representation and guidance you need. Our San Diego legal team is dedicated to building custom-tailored defense strategies so that you can face your charges with confidence.

Since 1990, jD Law Criminal Defense Attorneys has been helping countless clients resolve complex cases. Head attorney James N. Dicks is a former Los Angeles Police Department investigator and a Certified Criminal Law Specialist by the California Board of Legal Specialization. He is committed to using his experience and knowledge to help you achieve a favorable outcome.

Contact us at (760) 630-2000 to schedule a free consultation in English or Spanish. We are here to assist you.

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