Commercial DUI Law
Commercial DUI law of California is provided under Vehicle Code 23152d. As per this law, it is a criminal offense to operate a commercial motor vehicle with a BAC of 0.04% or more.
Commercial vehicles include:
- Those that require a driver to have a Class B driver’s license, for example, large trucks, and
- Those that require a driver to have a standard Class C driver’s license with commercial approval, for instance, double trailers, school buses, tank vehicles, vehicles that transport dangerous substances and require placards, passenger vehicles that carry ten people and above plus the driver, and in certain cases, farm vehicles.
Recreational and agricultural vehicles driven by persons not permitted to acquire California driver’s licenses are not part of commercial vehicles.
The 0.04% limit is only applicable to commercial vehicles. If a driver was operating a non-commercial motor vehicle, for example, a motorcycle, small truck, or a car, the standard BAC limit of 0.08% applies.
Note that the BAC limits are strict legal limits. This means that they are applicable whether or not the driver was impaired by alcohol.
Elements of Commercial DUI
Commercial driver’s license holders face severe penalties if found guilty under any DUI law. For the driver to be convicted, the prosecutor has to prove the following:
The driver was intoxicated with an alcoholic substance
A commercial driver is said to be intoxicated when his/her physical or mental abilities are impaired. Thus, he/she is unable to operate the vehicle with caution and ordinary care as a sober driver would do under the same circumstances.
The driver’s BAC was above the stipulated legal limit
A commercial driver is said to have exceeded the legal limit if his/her BAC is .04% or more. The prosecutor only needs to show that your BAC was .04%. He or she doesn’t need to prove that you were impaired to operate the vehicle. Thus, a commercial driver would be charged for DUI even if he/she wasn’t impaired as long as he/she had a blood alcohol concentration of .04% or higher.
The driver was intoxicated with drugs (either with or with no alcohol)
A commercial driver can also be charged with DUI if he/she drives while intoxicated with drugs or a combination of both drugs and alcohol. If the prosecutor can show that at the time of the arrest, you had any drug (even a prescription drug) in your system that would impair your physical and mental ability, you may be convicted.
Penalties for Commercial DUI
In case your commercial DUI is the first offense, and it did not result in any injuries to a third party, the penalties would include:
- A maximum of six months of a county jail sentence
- A maximum of five years of informal probation
- A fine of up to $1,000 and penalty assessments that could add up to $2,000
- Enrolment to a court-approved drug/alcohol school program for three months
- A minimum of a one-year commercial driver’s license suspension
Note that the court procedure for a first offense commercial driver’s license DUI is similar to that of a regular DUI, but a conviction of a commercial DUI would subject you to a longer time of license suspension.
Additionally, it is crucial to understand that being convicted of any DUI offense, whether you were driving a commercial vehicle or a personal vehicle, can affect your CDL. You do not have to be operating a commercial vehicle for a DUI conviction to affect your CDL and your life.
If you are convicted of a second commercial DUI offense, you will lose your CDL for life. You should contact an experienced attorney as soon as you are arrested for a second commercial DUI offense. The attorney might be able to look for mitigating factors that would lead to a reduction of the charges.
A commercial DUI that leads to the injury of another person can be prosecuted under VC 23153 DUI causing injury. This offense can be prosecuted as a felony or a misdemeanor, depending on the circumstances surrounding the case. A misdemeanor conviction has the following consequences:
- A maximum of five years of summary probation
- Up to one year of a county jail sentence
- A fine of up to $5,000
- Restitution to the injured party
- One or three years of CDL suspension
- A three, nine, eighteen, or thirty-month drug or alcohol school program approved by the court.
On the other hand, a felony commercial DUI conviction would result in a state prison sentence. The exact period you would be sentenced depends on how many people were injured in the accident, whether or not you have had prior DUI and reckless driving convictions, and the severity of the injuries the victim sustained. If the victim suffered a severe bodily injury, you would get a strike on your criminal record as per the Three Strikes law.
Other penalties include:
- A fine of up to $5,000
- DUI school program for eighteen or thirty months
- A Habitual Traffic Offender title for three years
- Commercial driver’s license suspension for five years
Refusal by a Commercial Driver to Submit to a Chemical Test
When a commercial driver refuses to submit to a breath, blood, or urine test when arrested for DUI, it will result in the suspension of the CDL for a year. Also, it may result in a sentence enhancement, especially if the driver has previous DUI convictions. The penalties for refusing to submit to a chemical test are as follows:
- For a first offense, you would get an additional of 48 hours of a jail sentence, an additional six months of mandatory DUI school program, and a one-year CDL suspension period.
- For a second commercial DUI offense within ten years, the sentence enhancement would be an additional 96 hours of a jail sentence, and a CDL suspension for two years.
- A third offense sentence enhancement would be an additional ten days of a jail sentence and a CDL suspension for three years.
- For a fourth and subsequent offense, you would face an additional eighteen days of a jail sentence and a CDL suspension for three years.
Commercial DUI and Eligibility for an IID Restricted License
As we mentioned earlier, if you are a commercial driver, you cannot get an IID restricted driver’s license to operate a commercial motor vehicle when your license gets suspended. However, you may downgrade to the standard non-commercial Class M (for motorcycles) or Class C (for cars) license and then obtain a restricted driver’s license to operate a non-commercial motor vehicle.
Common Defenses to Commercial Driver’s License DUI Charges
The defenses to commercial DUI charges are similar to those of regular DUI. Your attorney can challenge the charges against you by presenting the following defenses:
Inaccurate results of your chemical tests
The results of your breath or blood test may be strong evidence. However, several reasons can make these results inaccurate. They include:
- You may have suffered from heartburn, GERD, or acid reflux, which could produce false high BAC results
- Being on a protein diet which triggered the high chemical test results
- The police or lab didn’t follow the right procedure in administering the tests
Inappropriate arrest procedure
Even if you were driving under the influence, the police have to follow the proper protocol when arresting you. If they didn’t, your attorney should argue for the dismissal of your charges or the proof should not be used in court. Inappropriate procedures include:
- When the police pull you over with no probable cause
- When the police officer fails to follow Title 17 processes of administering the chemical tests
- When the arresting officer doesn’t read you your Miranda rights at the time of the arrest
- When the officer doesn’t correctly advise you of what will happen if you refuse to take chemical tests
Find an Experienced Commercial DUI Attorney Near Me
If you are a commercial driver, it is essential that you take DUI charges against you very seriously since the charges can affect your commercial driver’s license. Even if you are charged with a misdemeanor offense, you need an experienced commercial driver’s license attorney on your side to help fight the charges. For Los Angeles and San Fernando commercial drivers who have been charged with a DUI offense, contact The Law Offices of Ross Howell Sobel immediately at 818-582-2350, so we can fight the case for you.