Commercial drivers are held to a higher standard when it comes to drinking and driving. Drivers of commercial vehicles can be charged when driving with a lower legal alcohol limit than other drivers, and even a personal vehicle DUI will affect their commercial license to drive. In addition, the consequences of a DUI conviction are much more serious for commercial drivers in Virginia.
A commercial DUI conviction involves disqualification of your CDL for one year for a first offense and lifetime disqualification for a second CDL DUI. This is in addition to the criminal penalties associated with a DUI conviction, like fines and possible jail time. With so much at stake, commercial drivers should contact an experienced Virginia DUI defense lawyer to fight criminal DUI charges that could impact their life and livelihood.
Legal Limit for Commercial Drivers in Virginia
A commercial vehicle operator with a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) at or above 0.04% can be charged with a Class 3 misdemeanor offense in Virginia. Even a couple of beers can put a commercial driver over the 0.04% threshold.
If a driver is considered to be impaired by alcohol and/or any controlled substance, the driver could also be charged with a DUI no matter what the blood alcohol level shows.
A commercial driver with a BAC of 0.08% or higher will face the same penalties as any other driver with the additional restrictions on their commercial driving privileges.
Penalties for a CDL DUI in Virginia
The criminal penalties for a CDL DUI are the same as for a regular driver. The criminal penalties for a commercial vehicle DUI include the following.
- Fine of between $250 and $2,500
- Up to 1 year in jail
- If BAC 0.15% or greater (but less than 0.20%), minimum of 5 days in jail
- If BAC 0.20% or greater, minimum 10 days in jail
CDL Disqualification After a Virginia DUI
A DUI while driving a commercial vehicle in Virginia is considered a “major violation.” A commercial DUI will result in a one-year-disqualification, similar to a suspended license. The driver will not be able to operate a commercial vehicle during the one-year suspension period and there is no restricted CDL license available during that time.
A commercial DUI can include:
- Driving a commercial motor vehicle with a blood alcohol content (BAC) of 0.04% or higher; or
- Driving a commercial vehicle while under the influence of alcohol or drugs.
A second DUI will result in a lifetime commercial license disqualification. There is no limited lookback period for a previous CDL DUI. Even if a prior commercial vehicle DUI occurred 20 years ago, a second DUI can mean the permanent loss of your CDL.
Penalties for CDL Drivers Refusing a Chemical Test
Refusing an alcohol breath or blood test after a suspected drunk driving arrest is also considered a major violation. Under Virginia Code § 46.2-341.18:1, “refusal to submit to a chemical test to determine the alcohol or drug content of blood or breath of the operator of a commercial motor vehicle under the implied consent laws of that jurisdiction,” will also result in a one-year disqualification. A second offense will result in a lifetime disqualification.
I got a DUI in my personal vehicle. Will that affect my CDL in Virginia?
Yes. Unfortunately, a personal DUI can affect your CDL in Virginia. When other employees are off the clock, their personal driving actions will generally not affect their jobs. However, commercial drivers are held to a higher standard in Virginia, even when they are not working.
Since September 30, 2005, Virginia will disqualify any commercial driver for a period of one year for a DUI committed while operating a noncommercial vehicle, if the driver held a CDL at the time. Refusing a chemical test in a personal vehicle will also result in a one-year CDL disqualification.
Reinstating a Commercial Driver's License After a Virginia DUI
After a first-time CDL DUI, a commercial driver may be able to re-qualify to get their commercial driving privileges restored. The driver has to comply with all the terms of their driving suspension. These requirements may include:
- Waiting until the end of the suspension period (one year or more),
- Paying all court fines and costs,
- Completing the Virginia Alcohol Safety Action Program (VASAP),
- Completing all CDL driving skills and knowledge tests,
- Passing a separate knowledge test for a hazardous materials endorsement, and
- Paying any reinstatement fees.
After a second CDL DUI (or more), a driver generally cannot re-qualify for their commercial driving license. A second CDL DUI will result in a lifetime disqualification. The only option for getting a CDL back after a lifetime disqualification may be to file for an administrative review. Talk to your CDL DUI lawyer about your options after a second CDL DUI.
Can I Get a CDL in Another State After a DUI?
A commercial license disqualification for drunk driving or drug DUI in Virginia will apply to other states. The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) regulations apply to commercial drivers and commercial vehicle owners. Licensing agencies in other states will generally be aware of any CDL license suspension in another state and will not issue a CDL when the driver's CDL is suspended.
Restricted License After a CDL DUI in Virginia
Commercial vehicle drivers cannot get a restricted license after a CDL DUI in Virginia. Other drivers may be eligible for a restricted license that allows them limited driving privileges during the suspension period, such as to work, school, or doctor's appointments. However, this is not available for CDL DUIs.
Virginia CDL DUI Defense Lawyer
The penalties for a commercial driver DUI can be much more serious than other DUIs because the driver may lose their job and ability to earn a living. Fighting against a CDL DUI conviction in Virginia can help you keep your professional license and avoid a conviction that could hurt your ability to get a commercial driving job. If you are facing commercial DUI charges in the Charlottesville, Virginia area, contact attorney Thomas M. Wilson today for a free consultation.