Most people who drive need their vehicles for personal matters, such as shopping and getting the kids to their games on time. Many also need their vehicles to commute to their jobs. For a large number of people, their job is their vehicle. Commercial drivers who haul freight and inventory lose their livelihood if they lose their right to drive.

Drivers of commercial vehicles, normally larger trucks, need a special license called a commercial driver’s license (CDL). Drivers with a CDL can drive in any state. There are strict qualifications for obtaining a CDL which require passing special tests and a physical examination. A CDL license is in place of a regular state license. This means commercial drivers have just one license that they use for all their driving – commercial and non-commercial.

The DUI standard for commercial drivers

In every state, drivers can be charged with driving under the influence of alcohol (DUI) if their blood alcohol content (BAC) is .08 or more. The standard for commercial drivers is lower, just .04, because of the dangers that commercial trucks pose to other drivers.

A driver’s CDL license can be suspended or revoked if:

  • He or she was driving a commercial truck and is found guilty of a DUI due to a BAC level of .04 or more.
  • He or she was driving the family vehicle and found guilty of a DUI due to a BAC level of .04 or more.

The fact that the driver was in a personal, family vehicle doesn’t change a his or her duty to drive with extra caution. The police, when they check the driver’s license, will see that that the driver has a CDL. The driver will be charged with a DUI. If the driver only had a regular license and the BAC was between .04 and under .08, the driver would normally not be charged with a DUI.

A .04 BAC reading is very low. Just one drink can lead to a .04. Many drivers with a .04 BAC don’t feel like they’re drunk.

A DUI conviction generally results in the suspension of a driver’s license in Maryland for one year. It normally also means that 12 points will be assessed against your insurance record and that the driver will have to pay fines and court costs. While many Maryland drivers can apply for a restricted license so they can commute to work, the restricted license cannot be used to drive a commercial vehicle. There is no restricted CDL license. After the one year suspension, CDL drivers may still have difficulty finding work because employers can ask about their criminal records.

Possible defenses to a DUI for CDL drivers

Commercial drivers do have the right to assert the same defenses as non-commercial drivers do. These defenses include:

  • Challenging the right of the police officer to stop the driver
  • Challenging the right of the police officer to give a breath test or field sobriety tests
  • Contesting the validity of the tests
  • Asserting all other factual and legal defenses that may apply

Contesting the accuracy of the breath test is often critical in CDL defenses to a drunk driving charge because the BAC limit is so low that even a minor error in the breath equipment or the way it was given can affect the BAC reading.

For anyone with a CDL license, it is critical that you speak with an experienced DUI attorney if you have been charged with drinking and driving. It is critical, if you want to keep your job, that a CDL driver either have the charges dismissed, that there be an acquittal, or that the charges are reduced to a less serious offense such as a speeding ticket. For help with your DUI case, contact the experienced criminal defense lawyers at Carey Law Office in Bowie or Crofton by phoning 301-464-2500 or filling out our contact form.