If you drive a commercial vehicle for a living and have been arrested in the Los Angeles Area on charges of DUI, you face stricter standards and potentially more severe sentencing than would an "ordinary" driver. To avoid these consequences and to prevent the permanent loss of your current line of employment, it is imperative that you waste no time in contacting an experienced DUI defense attorney.
At Los Angeles DUI Lawyer, we long experience at handling not only simple DUI cases but cases involving commercial driver's license suspensions as well. We have a track record of success at securing favorable outcomes to CDL DUI cases and will work tirelessly in your behalf to protect your livelihood.
What Is a Commercial Driver DUI in California?
California Vehicle Code Sections 23152d and 15300 address DUI violations by those operating a commercial vehicle and/or holding a commercial driver's license.
For drivers of commercial vehicles, only a BAC of .04% or higher (instead of the usual .08%) is necessary to constitute a DUI violation. And this standard and other commercial driver penalties still apply even if you were not operating a commercial vehicle at the time of your DUI arrest. The idea is that a person who drives under the influence in one vehicle cannot be trusted to avoid doing so in another.
Also, if your BAC was .08% or higher or if your driving is deemed to have been impaired by drugs or alcohol, your CDL will be suspended for at least one year. This is very different than with non-commercial suspensions, which only have a 6 month minimum suspension and allow the issuing of a restricted license within 30 days.
Another stricter policy for commercial drivers is that a BAC test reading of .04% or higher within 3 hours of being behind the wheel creates a "rebuttable presumption" of DUI guilt. While arguably unfair, this rule essentially reverses the old adage of "innocent until proven guilty." The DUI can still be rebutted, that is, successfully argued against at the DMV hearing and/or in court, however, by a skilled DUI lawyer.
What Is a "Commercial Vehicle?"
Almost anything that requires you to hold a commercial driver's license while driving it can be considered a commercial vehicle for DUI purposes. However, California law goes into much more detail and lists the following classes of vehicles as qualifying as "commercial:"
- Any vehicle with a GVWR over 26,001 pounds and that can tow a vehicle with a GVWR of over 10,001 pounds.
- All double trailers.
- All school buses, along with all vehicles that carry ten or more people.
- All tank-type trucks.
- Any vehicle carrying hazardous materials.
Vehicles that one might think would be classed as commercial but that are not, include:
- Taxis, Uber ride-share vehicles, and limos with a less than 10-person capacity.
- Recreational vehicles ("RVs" or "campers").
- Farm vehicles when driven by anyone exempted from needing a California driver's license to operate them.
Penalties for a California DUI by a holder of a commercial driver's license tend to be very strict. And these penalties apply regardless of what type of vehicle the driver was operating when issued the DUI. Possible sentencing elements for first through third violations include:
- A maximum of 12 months in county jail, and informal probation.
- A fine of from $390 to $1,000.
- Mandatory attendance at a state-approved DUI class, at your own expense, for anywhere from 3 to 36 months.
The above penalties are for misdemeanor violations and do not take up the issue of license suspension, since that is dealt with in the next section. If an injury or death was caused in an accident related to your DUI, it can be charged as a felony and could result in a long term in state prison. But most DUIs, even commercial DUIs, are charged as misdemeanors.
Will My CDL Be Suspended?
As with other sentencing elements, license suspensions for DUI are generally stricter with those who hold commercial licenses. Here is what to expect:
A first time offense will result in a one-year suspension of your CDL, regardless of what vehicle you were driving during the DUI, and without any possibility of getting a restricted license to use in driving to/from work and to/from your DUI classes. Again, this is much harsher than for ordinary DUIs, where a six-month suspension with the possibility (and even likelihood) of a getting a restricted license exists.
And, if you are convicted of a repeat DUI offense, your CDL will be revoked permanently, as in for the rest of your life. Thus, drivers of commercial vehicles are, in effect, punished by having their jobs taken away for at least one year and sometimes for life, if they get a DUI. Whereas, others who commit DUI are given a restricted license so that they need not lose their job.
Many have concluded this system is unfair, while others argue that the larger, more dangerous vehicles often driven with a CDL merit such harshness. But as a defendant, the important thing is not to argue over the fairness of the law but to secure a skilled DUI lawyer who can argue to get your DUI charge dismissed, acquitted, or at least reduced, so as to save your driving privileges and your livelihood.
Common Defense Strategies
At Los Angeles DUI Lawyer, we know how to form unique defense strategies that fit the exact circumstances of each and every case we take on. However, over the years, we have also seen many similar cases that required much the same defense strategy. Here are some of the most commonly used defenses at our DUI law firm:
- Your BAC test results were inaccurate: The reason for a false BAC reading could be any number of things, including: instruments not properly calibrated or used, testing equipment that was not properly maintained and thus not reliable, a still-rising BAC that would thus have been lower while actually driving, the taking of certain medications or even the use of mouth wash, acid reflux and certain other medical conditions, or burping or regurgitating during or just before the breathalyzer test.
- The traffic stop or arrest was conducted illegally: If police do not use proper procedure in making a DUI arrest, the evidence they collect can become inadmissible in court. For example, if they stopped you and/or arrested you without probable cause, did not follow California's Title-17 police procedures, or questioned and arrested you without ever reading you your Miranda Rights, your DUI case could be dismissed as a result.
- The police report and police testimony are questionable: If the arresting officer can be shown to have given false information about past DUI or other arrestees or to otherwise have a bad character record, his/her testimony can be weakened or rendered ineffective. If the police report was filled out sloppily, incompletely, or in any way falsely, this could also help to win your DUI case.
Contact Us Today for Help
Los Angeles DUI Lawyer has deep expertise in fighting commercial driver's license suspensions in the state of California. We know how to build a solid defense and to probe for weaknesses in the prosecution's case against you.
To learn more or for a free commercial DUI consultation, contact us anytime 24/7 at 424-281-3020.