California imposes harsh penalties on commercial drivers found to have committed an offense. Suspending your commercial driver’s license is one of the penalties. The suspension means you cannot operate a commercial motor vehicle (CMV) for a certain period. During the suspension, your CDL is temporarily withdrawn, and you are prohibited from driving a CMV until the suspension period is over and the license is reinstated.

Commercial driver's license suspensions adversely affect you and your loved ones. Notably, you cannot generate income from your driving job. Thus, you need to enlist the services of a Bakersfield attorney familiar with driving laws to help you challenge the suspension. At the Koenig Law Office, we are ready to assist. Contact us today for more information.

What are Commercial Driver’s Licenses?

A CDL, a commercial driver's license, enables drivers to operate commercial vehicles for business-related purposes legally, for example, large trucks and buses. The CDL is required by the United States Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA). This ensures that commercial drivers have the knowledge, skills, and training to operate commercial vehicles safely on the roads.

A driver must pass written knowledge and skills tests to obtain a CDL, including a pre-trip inspection, basic control skills, and an on-road driving test. The assessments are created to assess the driver's understanding of commercial driving laws, guidelines, and safety measures, as well as their proficiency in safely operating a commercial vehicle under various road and traffic circumstances.

The California Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) issues commercial driver's licenses (CDLs) for applicants in Bakersfield. The DMV processes CDL applications, administers knowledge and skills tests, issues CDLs, and maintains driver records.

In California, commercial drivers must also possess a current medical certificate that verifies their physical fitness to operate a commercial vehicle. You must obtain the medical certificate from a medical examiner licensed and registered with FMCSA.

California CDL holders must also comply with ongoing requirements to maintain their license, including regular CDL renewals and medical examinations.

There are three classes of CDL, which determine the type of vehicle that a driver can operate:

  • Class A — Allows drivers to operate combination vehicles with a GCWR (gross combination weight rating) of 26,001 pounds or more, provided the vehicle being towed weighs over 10,000 pounds.
  • Class B — Allows drivers to operate single vehicles with a gross combined vehicle weight rating (GVWR) of 26,001 pounds or more or combination vehicles with a GCWR of 26,001 pounds or more, provided the vehicle being towed weighs less than 10,000 pounds.
  • Class C — Allows drivers to operate vehicles designed to transport 16 or more passengers, including the driver, or vehicles carrying hazardous materials.

Drivers can obtain various endorsements and restrictions to operate specific vehicles or carry certain cargo and passengers. They are:

  • Hazardous Materials (H) endorsement — Authorizes a driver to transport hazardous materials that require placards.
  • Passenger (P) endorsement — Allows a driver to operate a vehicle designed to transport 16 or more passengers, including the driver.
  • School Bus (S) endorsement — Permits a driver to operate a school bus.

Reasons Your Commercial Driver’s License Could Be Suspended

A CDL suspension occurs when a driver's license is temporarily withdrawn because of a traffic offense or violation. Drivers with suspended licenses cannot operate a commercial motor vehicle (CMV) for a specific period.

The court or the DMV can initiate the suspension of a commercial driver's license. If a CDL holder is convicted of certain traffic violations or criminal offenses, the court could order the DMV to suspend their CDL. In these cases, the suspension is court-initiated.

Alternatively, the DMV could initiate the suspension of a CDL for various reasons, including but not limited to:

  • Accumulation of points on the driving record.
  • Violation of specific traffic laws or regulations.
  • Commercial motor vehicle noncompliance with federal safety regulations.
  • Conditions that affect a driver's capability to safely operate a commercial vehicle from a medical perspective.

After evaluating your case in a hearing, the DMV will decide whether to suspend your license. You have the right to request a hearing. Additionally, you have a right to be represented by an attorney at the hearing.

The courts and the DMV can suspend your driving license. However, court proceedings and DMV hearings are independent.

  1. Driving Under the Influence of Alcohol or Drugs

CDL holders who operate commercial motor vehicles in California are subject to a lower BAC limit of 0.04%. The standard BAC limit of 0.08% for non-commercial drivers.

Police officers assess impaired driving from two approaches. The officers could observe a driver swerving, driving extremely slowly, or noticing an alcoholic breath after a routine traffic stop. Alternatively, the officers could assess a driver’s intoxication at a DUI stop. 

In both situations, the officers rely on the results of field sobriety tests and chemical tests to confirm their suspicion of a driver’s intoxication.

Field sobriety tests are tools to determine impairment. However, their accuracy is not always guaranteed. Their accuracy is affected by a variety of factors, including:

  • The driver’s physical condition.
  • The environment in which the officers conduct the test, and
  • The officer's interpretation of the results.

In addition, it is possible to face DUI charges even if you pass a field sobriety test. Prosecutors could use the results as evidence of your intoxication.

On the other hand, chemical tests are more reliable if they are administered correctly, according to Title 17. The officers could take your breath, urine, or blood sample to determine the extent of your intoxication. You will face prosecution if the blood alcohol level is 0.04% or higher.

  1. Refusal to Submit to a Chemical Test

California's implied consent laws are under Vehicle Code 23612. It establishes that driving on a public road implies that an individual has consented to chemical testing of their blood, breath, or urine to determine the presence of drugs or their blood alcohol content.

Whereas you can refuse to submit to a test, refusing a post-arrest chemical test can automatically lead to the suspension of your commercial driver's license. You will also receive enhanced penalties if you are convicted of commercial DUI. Commercial drivers are subject to stricter regulations and penalties for DUI offenses, and refusing to take a chemical test violates implied consent laws.

You will receive a suspension notice if you refuse to take a chemical test after being arrested for DUI. The notice indicates that your CDL will be suspended for one year for a first-time refusal. You can also contest the suspension by requesting a hearing with the DMV. You need to request the hearing within ten days of the arrest. Otherwise, you could lose the opportunity to challenge the suspension.

At the hearing, the officer and prosecutor will present evidence of the arrest and refusal to take the test. The hearing officer will then decide based on the facts presented.

  1. Driving Without a Valid Driving License

Driving without a license in California violates Vehicle Code Section 12500.

Driving without a valid driver's license can result in the suspension of driving privileges. Several factors can render a driver's license invalid. These include:

  • Failure to renew the license on time.
  • Driving without a license, or
  • Possessing a suspended or revoked license.

You will face penalties if caught driving without a valid driver's license. These include fines, possible jail time, and having your license suspended. The length of the suspension depends on several factors. They include the reason for the suspension and the driver's prior driving record.

  1. Accumulation of Points on the Driving Record

The DMV uses a point system to track and penalize drivers with too many traffic violations or accidents on their driving records. The specific point values assigned to each violation vary.

If you accumulate:

  • Four or more points in 12 months.
  • Six or more points in 24 months, or
  • Eight or more points in 36 months, the DMV will suspend or revoke your driving privileges.

Note: Commercial drivers could face suspension or disqualification of their CDL if they accumulate too many points on their driving record.

  1. Commercial Motor Vehicle Noncompliance With Federal Safety Regulations

Commercial motor vehicle drivers and carriers must comply with federal safety regulations to ensure the safety of drivers and other road users. Failure to comply with these regulations can result in suspending a commercial driver's license. Some of the federal safety regulations related to CMVs that, if violated, can lead to a CDL suspension include the following:

  • Hours of service (HOS) regulations — These regulations limit the number of hours a driver can drive in a day or workweek to prevent driver fatigue. Violations of HOS regulations can result in a CDL suspension.
  • Vehicle maintenance — Commercial motor vehicles must be regularly maintained to ensure they operate safely. Failure to maintain a vehicle in compliance with federal regulations can lead to a CDL suspension.
  • Weight restrictions — CMVs have weight restrictions that vary depending on the type of vehicle and the cargo being carried. Violations of weight restrictions can result in a CDL suspension.
  • Hazardous materials regulations — CMV drivers transporting hazardous materials must comply with strict federal rules to prevent accidents and protect public safety. Violations of hazardous materials regulations can lead to a CDL suspension.
  • Recordkeeping — Carriers and drivers must keep accurate records of their operations, including service hours, maintenance, and inspections. Failure to maintain proper records can result in a CDL suspension.

It is best to familiarize yourself with and comply with all federal safety regulations to avoid CDL suspensions and other legal consequences.

  1. Conditions That Can Affect A Driver's Capability To Safely Operate A Commercial Vehicle From A Medical Perspective

Driving a commercial vehicle safely can be compromised by certain medical conditions. For this reason, the Department of Transportation (DOT) requires commercial drivers to meet specific medical standards to obtain and maintain a commercial driver's license.

Drivers must inform the DOT If they develop a medical condition that could hinder their ability to drive a commercial vehicle safely. They will undergo an evaluation conducted by a certified medical examiner. If the examiner concludes that the driver is not medically fit to drive a commercial vehicle, their CDL could be suspended until the medical condition is resolved or managed. Nevertheless, the driver could be permitted to drive non-commercial vehicles.

Examples of medical conditions that could lead to a CDL suspension include:

  • Uncontrolled diabetes.
  • Cardiovascular disease.
  • Sleep apnea, and
  • Vision or hearing impairments that cannot be corrected with glasses or hearing aids.

Defenses You Can Assert in a Commercial Driving License Suspension

Challenging a commercial driver’s license suspension can be a complex process. However, there are several strategies that a driver can use to contest the suspension. Here are some ways to defend against a CDL suspension:

  1. Challenging the DUI Allegations

Most CDL suspensions result from intoxicated driving. If you face a license suspension because of a DUI incident, you can use any of the following strategies in your defense:

The Traffic Stop Was Illegal

The police must have a reasonable suspicion that a driver has committed a traffic violation or is engaged in criminal activity before they can pull them over. Evidence obtained after an invalid stop by the police is not admissible in court. The police must have a valid reason to pull over a driver. For example, having a reasonable suspicion of a traffic violation or criminal activity.

Questioning the Field Sobriety Test Results

Field sobriety tests are not always accurate. Many factors can affect a driver's ability to perform them. They include fatigue, anxiety, and physical disabilities. If your poor performance on the field sobriety test was due to factors other than intoxication, your attorney will challenge the admissibility of the test results.

The Administration of the Blood Alcohol Content (BAC) Test Was in Violation of Title 17

Blood alcohol content tests can also be unreliable for various reasons, like improper administration or testing errors. An experienced DUI attorney can review the testing procedures and results to determine if any issues could invalidate the test.

You Were Not Driving at the Time of the Incident

Commercial drivers are held to higher standards than other drivers when it comes to DUI. However, if there is no evidence that you were operating a commercial vehicle at the time of the offense, your attorney could challenge the commercial DUI charge.

You Have a Medical Condition that Accounts for the Alcohol Content in Your Blood

Some medical conditions, including diabetes or GERD (gastroesophageal reflux disease), can affect the accuracy of a breathalyzer test. You could use your condition as a defense. You can, therefore, call into question the results provided in your case.

  1. Proving Compliance With Safety Regulations

You can challenge the suspension by proving that you complied with the regulations if you are facing suspension of your CDL for commercial motor vehicle noncompliance with federal safety regulations.

You must provide documents that show you have complied with the industry regulations. You could present maintenance logs, inspection reports, driver logs, and other records that show you followed the laws. The appropriate document depends on the nature of the allegation.

Frequently Asked Questions

How Does a Commercial Driver's License Get Affected by Subsequent DUI Convictions?

Subsequent DUI convictions can seriously affect your commercial driver's license (CDL). In California, a first-time DUI conviction for operating a commercial vehicle with a BAC of 0.04% or higher results in a one-year CDL suspension.

If you are convicted of a second DUI offense within ten years, you face a lifetime disqualification from commercial driving privileges. This means you cannot obtain another CDL for the rest of your life.

A third DUI conviction within ten years will result in a lifetime CDL disqualification, and there are no options for reinstatement of your commercial driving privileges.

Note: Even if you were not driving a commercial vehicle during your DUI arrest, a subsequent conviction for a non-commercial DUI offense could still result in a lifetime CDL disqualification. This is on condition that you have prior DUI convictions on your record.

Will My Commercial License Get Suspended If I’m Convicted for DUI in a Passenger Vehicle?

Your commercial driver's license will be suspended if you are convicted of DUI in a passenger vehicle. A DUI conviction in any car, including a passenger vehicle, will appear on your driving record. The priors will be considered when determining whether to suspend or revoke your commercial driver's license.

The length of the suspension or revocation depends on the specific circumstances of the offense, including the number of prior DUI convictions on your record.

What is the Process for Reinstating a Commercial Driver's License in California After a Suspension?

To reinstate your CDL after the suspension period in California, you will need to follow these steps:

  • Complete any required alcohol or drug rehabilitation programs or courses, if applicable.
  • Pay all necessary fines and fees associated with the suspension.
  • Obtain proof of financial responsibility, for example, an SR-22 certificate, from your insurance provider.
  • Visit the DMV offices to apply for reinstatement of your CDL.
  • Pass all required written and driving tests, including the medical examination the DMV requires.

Contact a Bakersfield DUI Attorney Near Me

The risk of a conviction for a DUI offense and the subsequent suspension of your license is high. The suspension of your commercial driver’s license for reasons other than DUI is also consequential. Therefore, you need legal assistance immediately. Call the Koenig Law Office today at 661-793-7222. We will work to ensure your rights are protected in your Bakersfield trial and at the DMV hearing.