TAMPA COMMERCIAL DUI ATTORNEY
Representing Drivers in Pinellas & Hillsborough County
In the United States, we share the roadways with 3.9 million commercial driver’s license holders. The men and women that operate these commercial vehicles are responsible for delivering 70% of all freight. We entrust CDL drivers with everything from our furniture, food, valuables, children, and more. This is one of the reasons why commercial vehicle drivers follow different rules and regulations compared to regular motor vehicle drivers. They also must adhere to stricter laws when it comes to operating their commercial vehicles while under the influence. When a CDL driver faces DUI charges, they can potentially lose their license and the ability to provide for their family financially.
DUI charges should never be taken lightly, especially when they can affect your job and future opportunities. This is why it’s crucial to reach out to an experienced Tampa DUI lawyer immediately following a CDL DUI arrest so that they can begin helping you get your license back.
What is Considered a Commercial DUI?
Commercial drivers include those operating school buses, commercial trucks, and other vehicles that require a commercial driver’s license (CDL). Commercial vehicles are held to a higher standard regarding the laws and regulations for roadways. This is because of the massive weight of a commercial vehicle and the catastrophic impact it can have on another motor vehicle if involved in an accident.
The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) created and enforced the standards that commercial drivers must abide by. The FMCSA also created specific regulations regarding driving under the influence while operating a commercial vehicle. Listed below are examples of the CDL drivers and employers that fall under the FMCSA drugs and alcohol usage standards.
- Any individual that owns or leases commercial motor vehicles
- Individuals that assign drivers to operate commercial motor vehicles
- Private motor carriers
- For-hire motor carriers – rideshare drivers like Uber and Lyft, taxi drivers, etc.
- Federal, state, and local governments
- Civic organizations – transport for disabled individuals, Girl Scouts, etc.
If any commercial driver of one of the above commercial vehicles gets behind the wheel while intoxicated, they’ve committed a commercial DUI. As you can see, commercial drivers aren’t just commercial truck drivers like semi-trucks; they’re also drivers that operate vehicles carrying individuals. So when a person with a commercial driver’s license decides to get behind the wheel, they put more than just themselves and other drivers at risk.
If you’re facing a CDL DUI charge, don’t go down this road alone. Attempting to navigate a CDL DUI charge without legal counsel is ill-advised and can result in losing your CDL commercial license permanently.
Blood Alcohol Level for Commercial Drivers
CDL drivers and the employers of CDL drivers are held to higher standards than the average driver when it comes to driving under the influence. The FMCSA created its own commercial vehicle DUI regulations. The rules and regulations for commercial drivers operating their vehicles while intoxicated are much stricter than those for the average motorist.
While most drivers are considered under the influence when they have a .08 percent blood alcohol content, a CDL driver is considered intoxicated at a .04 percent blood alcohol level. In addition to having a lowered blood alcohol level, CDL drivers are required to wait four hours after consuming an alcoholic beverage before they can drive.
The other guidelines the FMCSA has in place for CDL drivers and DUIs are:
- Alcohol testing: Commercial vehicle drivers are subject to random alcohol tests, alcohol tests after an accident, any incident where alcohol consumption is suspected will warrant a test, and a test will be administered as part of the conditions for returning to work following a violation.
- Drug screening: CDL drivers are often required to undergo random drug test evaluations.
- Strict punishments: According to the FMCSA, when a CDL driver refuses a test, it’s considered an admission of guilt resulting in a DUI conviction.
What Should I Do if I’ve Been Pulled Over for a DUI in a Commercial Motor Vehicle?
When drivers are pulled over for a suspected DUI, they have the right to refuse a BAC test. However, it’s a little different when a commercial vehicle driver is pulled over for a suspected DUI. If the CDL driver refuses the BAC test, the law enforcement officer will seize the commercial vehicle, and your CDL will automatically be suspended. You could be eligible to apply for a hardship license even after a CDL DUI conviction.
Commercial vehicle drivers have the option to contest the license suspension with the FMCSA, but the request must be made within ten days of the arrest. Drivers that either refused the BAC test or failed are able to file. While the FMCSA hearing doesn’t impact the DUI conviction, it can help you regain your license. Commercial drivers depend on their licenses to earn a living, so even a short period out of work can be devastating.
It’s important to discuss your options with an experienced Tampa DUI lawyer immediately following your DUI arrest so that you can take the appropriate steps quickly.
Penalties for a CDL DUI Conviction
Much like the regulations that CDL drivers must follow regarding operating their vehicles while under the influence, the penalties for these charges are more severe. A CDL driver convicted of a DUI either on or off the clock can face the following punishments:
- License suspension: When average drivers have their license suspended, it can inconvenience their everyday life, like going to work and the store. However, the consequences can be devastating when a commercial vehicle driver has their license suspended. Individuals driving commercial vehicles for a living need their CDL to provide for their families, pay bills, etc. A CDL license suspension can lead to financial hardships for commercial vehicle operators, especially if they are unable to return to work or maintain their license.
- Fines: The fines a CDL driver is responsible for will vary depending on their state. The amount an individual is required to pay for a DUI will be determined by the circumstances surrounding the incident. An example would be if anyone was injured or a high blood alcohol level was detected. Fines regarding a DUI conviction in Florida can range between $500 to $1,000, but depending on the specific facts of your case may be more.
- Community service/jail time: CDL drivers could face up to six months in jail and probation for a year for a first time offense, but depending on the breath test results could face 9 months of jail time.
- Community service: A mandatory amount of community service hours for a CDL driver to perform is 50 hours.
- Employer notification: Whether the DUI occurred on or off duty, the driver must notify their employer within 30 days.
Since CDL drivers are technically on the clock when operating their vehicles, they can also face penalties from their employers, including termination, loss of benefits, and loss of pension.
In some cases, CDL drivers may face penalties if they drive under the influence while operating their personal vehicle or off the clock. Commercial drivers that face DUI convictions while driving their personal vehicle can have their commercial driver’s license suspended. During the suspension, they are unable to work, and if convicted, it can make finding another job difficult.
DUI charges for regular motor vehicle drivers can be challenging to navigate, but CDL DUI charges are even more complex and require the knowledge of an experienced criminal defense attorney like Andrew Buda. Contact the Buda Law Firm today to discuss your legal options with a Tampa CDL DUI lawyer.
Repeat Commercial DUI Charges
Getting your CDL back following DUI charges can be extremely difficult. If you are able to get your commercial driver’s license back and are charged with a second DUI, your CDL will be banned permanently.
It’s important to seek legal counsel from an experienced DUI defense attorney whenever you face a DUI conviction, but it’s crucial if this is your second offense. There are serious consequences following a second CDL DUI charge that can result in you never getting your CDL back which forever impacts your ability to provide for your family.
Following a second CDL DUI charge, contact a DUI defense lawyer immediately. The sooner you act, the better. Not only can they help you apply for a hardship license, but they can also help you contest your CDL ban with the FMCSA and take the fight to court if needed.
Call a Tampa CDL DUI Lawyer at Buda Law Today
We understand how important a commercial driver’s license is to those that operate commercial vehicles for a living. Not only can a DUI charge affect your current job, but it can significantly affect your future opportunities as well.
When fighting a CDL DUI charge, you want an attorney with experience handling even the most complicated cases, especially when your job and livelihood are on the line. At Buda Law, your
Tampa DUI defense attorney Andrew Buda will fight for your driving rights and represent you in court if necessary.