Driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs is a serious offense. Laws regarding DUI are defined under California Vehicle Code 23152 and aim to discourage individuals who operate motor vehicles with a BAC that exceeds the legal limit. Although the legal BAC limit for operating a vehicle in California is 0.08%, the law is more stringent on commercial drivers. Commercial drivers are held at a higher standard, and operating on a BAC of 0.04% or higher on this type of license will attract charges for commercial DUI under VC 23152(d).
A conviction for commercial DUI attracts severe punishments, including a mandatory driver's license suspension for one year. Also, it is crucial to understand that a driver whose commercial license is suspended for DUI will not be eligible for a restricted license. If you or a loved one faces charges for commercial DUI, you will need to enlist the services of a competent attorney to guide you through the case. At Koenig Law Office, we will help you fight the DUI charges to ensure you keep your commercial license and maintain your livelihood. We serve commercial drivers facing DUI charges in Bakersfield, CA.
Overview of Commercial DUI in California
For DUI laws, commercial vehicles are classified into two categories including:
- Commercial vehicles requiring a driver to hold a Class B driver's license
Commercial vehicles that will require this category of a driver's license include single vehicles with a weight exceeding 26,000 pounds or 3-axle vehicles exceeding 6,000 pounds.
- Commercial vehicles requiring a Class C license with commercial endorsement
You can operate some small commercial vehicles with a Class C license as long as you obtain commercial vehicle endorsement.
DUI laws aim to discourage drivers from driving while intoxicated or with a BAC that exceeds the legal limit. Often this means that exhibiting conduct related to drunk driving or having a BAC of 0.08% will prompt an arrest and prosecution for DUI. Often the legal BAC is much lower for drivers operating on a commercial license since they are held at a higher standard than other drivers.
Some of the situations that could give rise to charges for commercial DUI include:
- The driver is under drug or alcohol influence. California law considers a driver under drug or alcohol influence if their impaired physical and mental abilities render them incapable of making the right decisions when driving. The court will determine your driving abilities based on your conduct on the road.
- If you operate a commercial vehicle with a BAC of 0.04% or higher, you risk facing an arrest and charges for violation of VC 23152(d). The driver's BAC exceeds the legal limit. ABAC higher than the limit is enough to convict you for commercial DUI, and the prosecutor will not need to prove that your conduct was impaired.
- The commercial driver operated the vehicle under drug influence. This could include over-the-counter medication or a combination of alcohol and drugs.
Penalties for Commercial DUI
If you face a conviction for commercial DUI where no third parties were injured, you could face the following penalties:
- A six months jail sentence.
- Fines ranging between $390-$1,000.
- Summary probation.
- A one-year driver's license suspension.
- Mandatory attendance for an alcohol education program.
DUI causing injury on a third party can be charged as a felony or a misdemeanor. The nature of your charges will depend on the severity of the injuries and the number of victims involved. As a felony, the offense is punishable by:
- Incarceration in state prison.
- Fines of up to $5,000.
- Up to 30 months of DUI school.
- A five years driver's license revocation.
On the other hand, a misdemeanor conviction will attract the following penalties:
- A one-year jail sentence.
- Informal probation.
- Driver's license suspension for three years.
- Payment of victim restitution to injured parties.
Driver's License Suspension for Violation of California Vehicle Code 23152(d)
California DUI laws seek to penalize commercial driver's license holders after an arrest for drunk driving. DUI charges may originate from actual drinking and driving and other crimes associated with alcohol. The DMV is an agency that suspends or revokes your license.
After an arrest for commercial DUI, the arresting officer will take away your license and issue a notification that allows you to operate for up to thirty days after the DUI stop. The DMV allows you ten days to request a hearing where you can contest the license suspension. Failure to request a DMV hearing could result in an automatic license suspension immediately after your temporary license expires.
At the DMV hearing, you have the opportunity to present evidence and cross-examine witnesses in an attempt to avoid the license suspension. The DMV hearing is less formal and does not affect the outcome of your criminal case. However, winning the hearing can help you convince the court that you did not commit the crime for which you are charged.
Other than driving under the influence of alcohol, situations that could prompt the DMV to suspend your commercial driver's license include:
- Failure to submit to chemical tests.
- Accumulating points on your criminal record.
- Driving on a suspended license.
DMV license suspension for commercial DUI is often one year which is longer than six months for a standard DUI.
Lifetime Commercial Driver's License Suspension
California DUI law is stringent on repeat offenders. A conviction for a second commercial DUI could result in a lifetime license suspension. If you are arrested for commercial DUI, you should seek the guidance of a competent DUI attorney. The level of training that a commercial driver undergoes is of high quality. Additionally, commercial vehicles can result in catastrophic accidents when driven recklessly.
The harsh sentence for a first conviction for commercial DUI is a warning that California DUI laws do not tolerate drunk driving on a commercial license. A commercial driver must be an individual f high integrity and values. Therefore violation of VC 23152(d) can cause you to lose your license and livelihood.
In addition to a lifetime commercial license suspension for a second DUI, a conviction for a felony involving alcohol and other controlled substances after a commercial DUI will attract a similar penalty. Permanent suspension of your CDL means that you will never be allowed to operate a commercial vehicle.
Defenses against Commercial DUI
Facing an arrest and charges for commercial DUI does not mean that you will be convicted for the offense. With guidance from a competent attorney, it is possible to fight the charges and avoid a conviction or have your charges reduced. By presenting evidence in your favor and challenging the prosecutor's evidence against you, you can successfully beat the charges and evade the harsh consequences that accompany a conviction. The following defenses may be available for you if you face these charges:
Contest the accuracy of the Test Results
The results of your Breathalyzer and blood tests are the most significant pieces of evidence in a DUI case. If your BAC at the time of your arrest was 0.04% or higher, you risk facing a conviction for commercial DUI. Challenging the accuracy of the chemical test results is one of the strongest defenses you can present for the DUI case.
If you can prove that the lab or police did not follow strict procedures when carrying out the tests, you can claim that the results were inaccurate. Also, you can offer alternative explanations for your high blood alcohol content. Other than alcohol use, other factors that could significantly increase your BAC intake may include a high protein diet, health conditions such as diabetes and GERD, among others. If you can successfully prove that you suffered from a condition that led to a high BAC, you will have a chance to fight the charges for Commercial DUI.
Claim that the Arresting officer did not follow the Right Procedures
Even when a traffic officer suspects that you are driving under drug or alcohol influence, they must follow the right protocol for your criminal arrest and investigation. Failure to follow the proper procedures may be a powerful defense for your DUI case. Any evidence collected in unlawful procedures can be excluded from your case. Some of how arresting officers fail to follow the right protocol include:
- Pulling you over without probable cause. A DUI case begins when an officer pulls your vehicle over for suspected drunk driving. A driver must have sufficient reason to believe that you were intoxicated before pulling your vehicle over.
- Failure to comply with Title 17 procedures when conducting chemical tests.
- Failure to read your Miranda rights during the arrest. During an arrest, an officer is required to inform you of your rights, including the right to seek legal counsel and a right to refuse the chemical tests, among others. Also, the officer must inform you of the consequences of failing to submit to the tests.
The most important aspect of a DUI case was your actual BAC when you operated the vehicle. If you had a rising Blood Alcohol content when the officer pulled you over, the results of your chemical tests might be wrong. You can argue that your BAC rose and exceeded the legal limit during the period of DUI investigation and transfer to the police station for the blood test.
Claim that Bad Driving is not always a Result of DUI
One of the first things that a prosecutor focuses on in a California DUI case is your driving pattern. Also, it may be a reason why the arresting officer stopped you for suspicion of DUI. Some of the factors that could cause a traffic officer to suspect you for drunk driving include swerving from lane to lane, speeding, and avoiding the red light, among others. As a defense to your case, you can argue that you were merely driving poorly but not under drug or alcohol influence.
An experienced attorney can rebut the prosecutor's evidence regarding your driving conduct. By claiming that sober drivers commit most traffic violations and driving pattern is not a reliable DUI predictor, you can reduce your charges to reckless driving.
Frequently Asked Questions on Commercial DUI
Drunk driving is a serious offense in California. If you are arrested and convicted for DUI while operating on a commercial driver's license, you risk facing more serious penalties than defendants facing charges for standard DUI. The moments following an arrest and prosecution for commercial DUI can be challenging, and you may have many questions lingering on your mind. Some of the frequently asked questions regarding VC 23152(d) include:
Can I obtain a restricted license after a suspension for Commercial DUI?
If your driver's license is suspended after a DUI in California, you cannot obtain a restricted license to operate a commercial vehicle. A restricted license is a temporary license that you can use to operate a motor vehicle after your license is suspended for drunk driving or other driving-related offenses. A restricted license allows you to:
- Drive to and from work.
- Drive a minor dependent to and from school is school or public transport is unavailable.
- Drive yourself or another family member to seek medical care.
- Drive to counseling or while attending a court-ordered program.
Although you cannot drive a commercial vehicle on a restricted license, you can downgrade to a non-commercial license to operate a non-commercial vehicle.
What happens when a commercial driver fails to submit to chemical tests?
The blood and Breathalyzer tests are the chemical tests administered during the investigation of a drunk driving case. The law presumes that you have consented to blood testing if you are arrested for DUI by operating a vehicle in California. However, you have a right to refuse the chemical tests during and after an arrest, and the officers cannot coerce or force you to them. Although failing to take the test could eliminate the most crucial evidence, the refusal attracts serious penalties.
If you fail to take a chemical test after a lawful arrest for driving under alcohol or drug influence, you will face the penalties for chemical test refusal. Some of the consequences that a commercial driver could face for refusing the chemical tests include an enhanced sentence in addition to the commercial DUI penalties and a compulsory license suspension.
What is the process of reinstating a suspended commercial driver's license?
Before attempting to reinstate your commercial driver's license, you must ensure that your license is active. If you are eligible for license reinstatement, the DMV will inform you. On their notice, the DMV will guide you on the process to reinstate your driving privileges. If the DMV suspends your commercial license, they will downgrade your status to a non-commercial license.
Before reinstating your CDL, you need to undergo a medical evaluation and pay the required fees. It is crucial to understand that you cannot begin the process of reinstating your CDL until you complete license suspension.
Can a commercial DUI charge be reduced?
Due to the severity of the penalties accompanying conviction for commercial DUI in California, you may need to consider a plea bargain. A plea deal is an agreement between a defendant and the prosecutor where you plead guilty to a lesser offense. The most common plea deals involve reducing a commercial DUI charge wet reckless or dry reckless.
- Wet reckless plea. Wet reckless is a nickname for reckless driving and is not a crime for which you can be arrested or charged. If you face DUI charges and seek a reduction to a lesser offense, the prosecutor can agree to drop your DUI charges, and in return, you will plead guilty to a wet reckless, which attracts less serious penalties. However, your record will still indicate the involvement of alcohol or drugs in your crime.
- Dry reckless is a lesser offense than DUI and wet reckless since there is no indication of the involvement of alcohol or drugs. A dry reckless plea deal means short jail time and no mandatory driver's license suspension.
Find a Competent DUI Defense Attorney Near Me
California Vehicle Code 23152(d) makes it a crime for a driver to operate a commercial vehicle with a BAC exceeding 0.04% or with conduct impaired by the use of alcohol or drugs. This statute addresses commercial vehicles requiring a driver to hold a class B license and vehicles requiring a class C license with commercial endorsement. Due to the nature of their jobs, California DUI law is more stringent on commercial drivers.
A conviction for commercial DUI attracts serious legal penalties, including jail times, fines, and probation. Additionally, you will face a mandatory driver's license suspension, which can impair your livelihood. Your future depends on your commercial driver's license, and the only way you can keep it is by fighting the DUI charges.
If you are arrested and are battling charges under VC 23152(d) charges, you will require the guidance of a skilled DUI defense attorney. If you seek legal guidance for a commercial DUI in Bakersfield, CA, we invite you to contact Koenig Law Office for much-needed legal guidance and representation. Our group of competent attorneys will help you build a strong defense to ensure the best outcome in your case. Call us today at 661-793-7222 and allow us to guide you through the case.