Commercial Driver’s Licenses (CDL) & DUI

How Can a DUI Impact My CDL?

Those who have a CDL are held to higher standards when it comes to DUI charges. A DUI conviction can lead to the loss of your CDL anywhere from one year to a lifetime. It will be difficult to earn a living when you can no longer drive a commercial vehicle. The loss of the CDL can also occur if you received a DUI on your record while operating your personal vehicle at 0.08 or higher.

DUI Penalties for CDL Drivers

CDL drivers in Washington face the following DUI penalties if convicted of the crime in their commercial or personal vehicle:

  • A first offense comes with a CDL suspension of one year (three-year suspension if you were transporting hazardous material)
  • A second or subsequent offense comes with a lifetime suspension of your CDL
  • If you enter a deferred prosecution program and have a CDL, the state views this as a conviction, effectively suspending your CDL for at least one year

What Are The DUI Limits for CDL Drivers?

The DUI limit for a CDL driver who was driving a commercial vehicle at the time of the traffic stop is 0.04. The DUI limit for a driver with a CDL who was driving a noncommercial vehicle (personal) at the time of the traffic stop is 0.08.

Marijuana DUI Limits for CDL Drivers

Marijuana is legal in Washington, however, it can derail your career as a commercial vehicle driver. If a CDL holder is stopped by a police officer and has any detectable amount of marijuana in their system, they risk losing their CDL for at least one year. They can lose their CDL for life depending on their driving history.

Are There Employer Reporting Requirements?

For the most part, you do not have to report a DUI charge to your employer in Washington unless the following exceptions are present:

  • You are required to drive a vehicle as part of your employment
  • If your contract requires you to divulge your criminal record
  • If the employee policy or handbook expressly states that a DUI must be disclosed
  • If disclosing your criminal record is necessary to maintain your professional license

What Are Some Common Defenses to DUI as a CDL Holder?

The fear of losing your CDL even for a year will push you to find a Washington CDL DUI defense attorney to fight the charges. It is possible that procedural mistakes or investigative errors occurred during your traffic stop, arrest, and/or handling of you in jail. An experienced criminal defense attorney will examine all of the following possibilities to defend you against DUI charges:

  • Calibration errors of the breathalyzer device
  • Field sobriety tests that were improperly conducted
  • Lack of training for the arresting police officer
  • Errors in handling of the blood sample you provided
  • Lack of probable cause to stop the vehicle you were driving
  • Presence of medical conditions that might cause false positive readings
  • Lack of reasonable suspicion to place you under arrest

There are other defenses to being charged with a DUI as a CDL holder. Only an experienced Washington criminal defense attorney can decide which one is best for your situation. These defenses can lead to reduction in the severity of your DUI ticket. 

What is The Timeline for a CDL DUI in Washington?

Once the Washington Department of Licensing (DOL) decides to suspend your CDL, it will send a notice of intent to your home. The notice will explain that the DOL is planning to suspend your CDL, your personal driver’s license, or both licenses depending on the circumstances surrounding your case.

You have just seven days upon receipt of the notice of intent to suspend to respond to the DOL. The response is a request to have a hearing that contests the suspension. You might have to request two separate hearings to contest the suspension for your personal driver’s license and your CDL.

If you fail to contest the suspension within the seven days, your license will automatically be suspended. Even if you contest the suspension, your CDL will be suspended if you are convicted of the DUI charge in court.

How Do I Requalify for a CDL After a DUI Suspension?

Requalification for a CDL following a suspension for a DUI conviction is not automatic. You cannot simply get behind the wheel of a commercial vehicle once the suspension runs its course. You will need to apply to have the CDL reinstated by Washington. You can only begin the requalification process when the suspension expires. So, if your suspension is for two years, you cannot attempt to requalify for a CDL after the first year passes.

The first course of action you must take is to apply for and hold SR-22 insurance for at least three years. You might be required to retake the knowledge and/or driving portions of the CDL test in order to have the license reinstated.

If the suspension was related to hauling hazardous material, you will be required to pass the hazardous materials knowledge test. You might also be required to provide a letter from the Transportation Security Administration that states you passed their background check. You will need to pay a $35 requalification fee.

If your CDL was suspended a second time, you will not be able to requalify for a valid CDL as you will be banned from holding one for the rest of your life. Failing to requalify for a CDL can lead to criminal charges if you are caught driving a commercial vehicle without a valid CDL.

How Can a Washington CDL DUI Lawyer Help?

Facing a DUI charge as a CDL holder is stressful. Your financial situation can be impacted without the CDL, which is why you need to consult a Washington CDL DUI lawyer immediately. An experienced criminal defense attorney knows the DUI laws in Washington, how to collect evidence, how to question the traffic stop, and will build a defense to the charges so you have a valid CDL for employment purposes.