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If you hold a Commercial Driver's License (CDL) and have been charged with a DUI (Driving Under the Influence) or DWI (Driving While Intoxicated), the stakes are extremely high. Not only do you face the standard legal repercussions associated with DUI/DWI charges, but your professional life and ability to earn a living are also at risk. At Trbovich Law Firm, we have experience in defending CDL holders and understanding the unique challenges and severe implications of these charges on your career. Contact us today for a robust defense.

What Constitutes a DWI/DUI for CDL Drivers?


For commercial driver's license (CDL) holders, the standards for what constitutes a DWI (Driving While Intoxicated) or DUI (Driving Under the Influence) are stricter than for other drivers. This is due to the potentially greater consequences of operating larger vehicles typically associated with commercial driving. Here are the key elements that define a DWI/DUI for CDL drivers:

Stricter Blood Alcohol Concentration (BAC) Limits

  • Lower BAC Threshold: While the standard BAC limit for non-commercial drivers is 0.08% across most states, for CDL holders operating commercial vehicles, the limit is set at 0.04%. This lower threshold reflects the higher level of responsibility and safety required of commercial drivers.
  • Zero Tolerance for Certain Behaviors: Many states enforce zero-tolerance laws that apply specifically to CDL drivers, meaning that any detectable amount of alcohol can lead to DWI/DUI charges, especially when the driver is on duty or operating a commercial vehicle.

On-Duty vs. Off-Duty

  • On-Duty: When CDL drivers are on duty, or operating a commercial vehicle, any alcohol consumption is typically prohibited, and even very low levels of alcohol can result in severe penalties.
  • Off-Duty: CDL holders are still subject to the standard DWI/DUI regulations when they are off duty and driving their personal vehicles. However, the consequences of an off-duty DWI/DUI can still impact their commercial driving privileges.

Drugs and Controlled Substances

  • Illegal Drugs: Operating a commercial vehicle under the influence of any illegal drugs will lead to DWI/DUI charges, similar to the regulations for non-commercial drivers.
  • Prescription and Over-the-Counter Medications: CDL drivers must also be cautious about prescription and over-the-counter medications that may impair their ability to drive.
  • Drugs that cause dizziness, drowsiness, or other impairments can lead to DWI/DUI charges if they affect the driver’s ability to operate a vehicle safely.

Consequences of a DWI/DUI for CDL Drivers

The consequences of a DWI (Driving While Intoxicated) or DUI (Driving Under the Influence) for CDL (Commercial Driver's License) drivers are significantly more severe than for non-commercial drivers. This is because CDL drivers are held to a higher standard given the potential risk posed by operating large vehicles, often carrying hazardous materials or numerous passengers. Here's a detailed look at the potential consequences for CDL drivers facing DWI/DUI charges:

License Suspension and Disqualification

  • Immediate Disqualification: The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) mandates that a first-time DWI/DUI offense results in a minimum one-year disqualification of a CDL. If the offense involves the transportation of hazardous materials, the disqualification extends to three years.
  • Lifetime Ban: A second DWI/DUI offense results in a lifetime disqualification from holding a CDL, with the possibility of reinstatement after 10 years under certain conditions, which varies by state and the specific circumstances of the offense.

Employment Impact

  • Job Loss: Many transportation companies have strict no-tolerance policies for alcohol or drug-related offenses. A DWI/DUI conviction can lead to immediate termination, especially if the driver's role involves operating vehicles that require a CDL.
  • Career Longevity: The disqualification or revocation of a CDL can end a professional driving career, as finding employment in the field without a valid CDL is typically not possible.
  • Future Employment Challenges: Even after the period of suspension or once a CDL is reinstated, drivers may find it challenging to gain employment. DWI/DUI offenses are red flags for potential employers due to liability concerns.

Financial Penalties and Increased Insurance Costs

  • Fines: The fines associated with a DWI/DUI can be substantial, often running into thousands of dollars.
  • Insurance Premiums: CDL drivers will likely see an increase in insurance premiums. Insurance providers may sometimes drop coverage altogether for drivers with DWI/DUI convictions.
  • Legal and Reinstatement Costs: Legal fees, costs associated with alcohol education programs, and the expenses of reinstating a CDL can add significant financial burdens.

Mandatory Alcohol and Drug Counseling

  • Rehabilitation Programs: Depending on the jurisdiction and the specifics of the offense, CDL drivers may be required to attend drug and alcohol rehabilitation programs. Completion of such programs may be a condition for reinstating their license.

Impact on Personal Life

  • Social Stigma: CDL drivers may face social stigma both personally and professionally due to a DWI/DUI conviction.
  • Travel Restrictions: Some countries, such as Canada, deny entry to individuals with a DWI/DUI conviction, affecting drivers whose routes require cross-border travel.

Compliance and Monitoring

  • Ignition Interlock Devices: CDL drivers may be required to install ignition interlock devices in their personal vehicles as a condition for reinstatement of their driving privileges, though these devices cannot be installed on commercial vehicles.
  • Regular Checks: Post-conviction, drivers may be subject to more frequent checks and monitoring by employers and regulatory agencies.

How a Buffalo CDL DWI/DUI Lawyer Can Help

At Trbovich Law Firm, we understand the severe implications a DWI/DUI charge can have on a commercial driver’s license (CDL) holder. Given the stringent regulations and the harsh consequences that CDL drivers face, securing knowledgeable legal representation is crucial. Here’s how our experienced Buffalo CDL DWI/DUI lawyers can assist you if you're facing such charges:

Comprehensive Case Evaluation

Our first step in assisting you is a thorough evaluation of your case. We review all the evidence, including police reports, breathalyzer results, and witness statements. We aim to understand every detail and identify any inconsistencies or procedural errors that could be leveraged in your defense.

Challenging the Charges

We have experience in challenging DWI/DUI charges on various fronts:

  • Testing Procedures: We scrutinize the accuracy and legality of the sobriety tests conducted. This includes questioning the calibration and operation of breathalyzer devices and administering field sobriety tests.
  • Traffic Stop Legality: We assess whether the initial traffic stop was justified. Law enforcement must have a reasonable suspicion to stop a vehicle; lacking this, the evidence obtained during an illegal stop can often be suppressed.
  • Handling of Evidence: Proper handling and processing of evidence are critical in DWI/DUI cases. We explore any potential mishandling or contamination of blood alcohol tests and other procedural mistakes that could affect your case.

Negotiating Reduced Penalties

Understanding the significant impact a DWI/DUI conviction can have on your career, we negotiate vigorously to reduce penalties wherever possible. This may involve plea bargains to lessen the charges' severity or minimize the consequences regarding your CDL status.

License Preservation Efforts

We work diligently to protect your commercial driving privileges. This includes representing you in DMV hearings, which are crucial for contesting license suspensions. Keeping your CDL active is often pivotal, and we prioritize strategies that focus on maintaining or quickly reinstating your license.

Trial Representation

If your case goes to trial, you can rely on our skilled DWI/DUI defense lawyers to advocate forcefully on your behalf. We prepare meticulously, ensuring that we present the strongest possible defense. We utilize expert witnesses when necessary to challenge the prosecution’s claims regarding your impairment or the reliability of their evidence.

Post-Conviction Relief

Should the outcome not be in your favor, our services do not stop there. We assist with appeals and work on obtaining post-conviction relief, such as filing for conditional licenses or exploring options for license reinstatement after a suspension period.

Support and Guidance

Facing a DWI/DUI charge can be one of the most challenging times in your professional life. We provide legal representation, guidance, and support throughout the process, helping you understand each step and preparing you for all possible outcomes.

What To Do If You Get Pulled Over

Getting pulled over by the police can be a stressful experience, whether you suspect it's for a minor traffic violation or something more serious. Knowing what to do in these situations can help you manage the encounter more effectively and protect your legal rights. Here’s a step-by-step guide on how to handle being pulled over:

1. Pull Over Safely

As soon as you notice the police officer's lights or hear the siren, start looking for a safe place to pull over. This should be a well-lit area if possible, such as the right shoulder of the road or a parking lot. Use your turn signals to indicate your intentions to the officer.

2. Remain Calm and Stay in Your Vehicle

Once you’ve pulled over, turn off your engine, roll down your window, and turn on the interior light if it's dark outside. These actions can put the officer at ease. Stay inside your car unless the officer instructs you to get out. Exiting your vehicle without being asked can be perceived as aggressive behavior.

3. Prepare Your Documentation

Retrieve your driver’s license, vehicle registration, and proof of insurance before the officer approaches, if possible. If you need to reach into your glove compartment or another area where these items are stored, tell the officer what you are doing to avoid any misinterpretation of your actions.

4. Be Polite and Compliant

When the officer approaches, greet them politely. Compliance with the officer's requests is generally expected, but remember, you do not have to consent to everything. You should provide your name, license, and vehicle-related documents but avoid providing more information than necessary.

5. Know Your Rights

You can remain silent beyond the required information (name and address). If the officer asks questions about where you're coming from, where you're going, or whether you have been drinking, you can politely decline to answer. You can say, "I prefer not to answer any questions without my attorney present."

6. Handling a Sobriety Test

If suspected of DUI, you may be asked to perform a field sobriety test or a breathalyzer test. You have the right to refuse these tests in the field, but this may lead to your arrest and mandatory chemical testing under implied consent laws, which could result in automatic license suspension.

7. Consent to Search

Officers might ask to search your vehicle. You are within your rights to refuse to consent to a search if they do not have a warrant; however, if the officer believes your vehicle contains evidence of a crime, your vehicle can still be searched without your consent under certain circumstances.

8. If You’re Issued a Ticket

If you receive a ticket, it’s usually best to accept it and plan to contest it later in court. Arguing or refusing to accept the ticket on the spot can lead to further complications.

9. Contact a CDL DWI Attorney if Necessary

If you’re arrested or facing charges following a traffic stop, contact an attorney as soon as possible. An attorney can help protect your rights and advise you on the best action.

Pulled Over? Know Your Rights and Stay Protected!

If you've been pulled over and need guidance on handling the situation legally, contact Trbovich Law Firm. Our experienced DUI/DWI attorneys are here to help you understand your rights and provide the support you need to navigate through any traffic stop or legal issues that follow. Don’t face it alone—call us today for legal advice and representation.

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