Commercial drivers are often placed in charge of sensitive cargo, whether they are hauling oversized loads, delivering hazardous chemicals, or transporting young children to school. Because they have more responsibility to themselves, their cargo, and other drivers, they must follow higher safety standards than the average driver. To that end, commercial drivers must work even harder to avoid traffic violations—particularly DUI. While non-commercial and commercial drivers will follow the same criminal law process for DUI charges, commercial drivers must observe stricter rules and more severe penalties.
Stricter Blood Alcohol Rules
In most states, while non-commercial drivers must maintain a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) level below 0.08 percent, commercial drivers must limit their BAC to 0.04 percent. They are also prohibited from operating commercial vehicles within four hours of drinking alcohol.
Alcohol and Drug Tests
The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) sets up harsher rules for commercial drivers facing alcohol and drug tests. They must often submit to testing as a condition of employment, after an accident, and in other circumstances. Random testing can also occur. Commercial drivers are often required to take a blood alcohol test when they are pulled over on suspicion of DUI—and they face harsher penalties for refusing. In many cases, a test refusal may be treated as the equivalent of pleading guilty to DUI.
Longer Commercial License Suspension
Compared to non-commercial DUI, commercial drivers can face longer license suspensions following a DUI conviction. This can result in financial difficulties for drivers, because it cuts off an important source of income until their licenses are reinstated. The length of the suspension depends on the situation, but it often starts at 6 months in many states, and states like Florida typically suspend licenses for the duration of one year.
Must Notify Employers
Commercial drivers must disclose any traffic violation convictions to their employers within 30 days—including DUI convictions. Of course, employers may not continue to employ them as commercial drivers for the duration of any license restrictions. Drivers could face additional punishments from their employers, including termination. A DUI conviction on a commercial driver’s record can make it very difficult to find employment elsewhere.
Severe Penalties for Subsequent Violations
DUI penalties for any driver can include fines, demerit points, higher insurance rates, license suspensions and revocations, community service, jail time, enrollment in a DUI school or alcohol treatment program, and sometimes the installation of an ignition interlock device, which measures the driver’s BAC before it will allow the vehicle’s engine to start. Subsequent offenses usually come with harsher penalties; even more so for commercial drivers. They can even be permanently disqualified from operating a commercial vehicle. Drivers involved in an accident, as well as their employers, can be held civilly liable for injuries and damage. Previous violations make it harder to defend your case.
When you’re facing a DUI charge as a commercial driver, you should start to mount a legal defense as soon as possible. After all, a single conviction can cost you your livelihood. At Savannah DUI, we are committed to helping you minimize the impact of your DUI charge. When you call our law firm, our experienced attorneys will work hard to ensure that you can return to life as usual.