We all know the panic. The moment that you realize a police car is screaming down the highway toward you! That moment is even scarier if you have a commercial driver’s license (CDL).
If you get a citation as a result of a traffic stop, you need a traffic ticket attorney to help keep a conviction off your record. If you end up charged with driving while intoxicated (DWI), it’s a must to have an experienced criminal defense attorney on your side!
There are two issues at play for CDL holders: (1) criminal charges and (2) CDL consequences. Below are some common myths and myth busters regarding CDL holders.
Myth #1: If I’m in my personal vehicle, a traffic ticket or DWI does not affect my CDL.
Whether you’re in your commercial vehicle or not, that traffic conviction undoubtedly affects your commercial driving record.
If you’re caught operating any motor vehicle under the influence of alcohol or drugs, your CDL will be suspended (“disqualified”) for a year upon conviction. So, if you’re driving your personal vehicle while intoxicated and end up with a DWI conviction, kiss that CDL goodbye for a year.
Let’s say you drive a hazardous materials commercial vehicle and you’re intoxicated. That suspension for DWI will increase to three years. A second DWI conviction bans you for life! Drug convictions also affect your CDL.
Myth #2: The same “point system” rules apply to CDL holders.
Nope. If you have a regular driver’s license, your license won’t be suspended for two or even three traffic convictions. You’ll accumulate points and pay surcharges, but not necessarily have your license suspended. That’s not the case with CDLs.
Your CDL will be suspended for 60 days if you get a second conviction within a 3-year period for a serious traffic offense while driving a commercial vehicle. A third conviction within the 3-year period means you’re without a license for 120 days.
“Serious traffic offenses” include things like speeding 15mph over the limit, reckless driving, following too closely, etc. You can also have your license suspended for leaving the scene of an accident you were involved in, even in your personal vehicle!
If you use your commercial vehicle during commission of a felony, that’s suspension for life. The Texas Hold’em Initiative bans your CDL for life if you are convicted of felony alien smuggling while operating a motor vehicle.
And by the way, CDL holders are not eligible to take the driver’s safety/driver’s education course for dismissal of a traffic citation.
For visual learners, see here:
Hire a traffic ticket lawyer immediately to help you! You need to stay on the road rather than messing with court hearings.
Myth #3: If I’m pulled over and blow under the legal limit, I’m good.
Wrong. The Texas Department of Public Safety (DPS) will suspend your CDL for one year if you are operating a commercial vehicle with a blood/breath alcohol level of .04 or more. You may not end up with a DWI conviction, but you will not have your CDL for a year.
So, what if I don’t take the test? Refusal is also a one-year suspension. No matter if you’re in a personal or commercial vehicle.
For regular license holders, breath or blood alcohol tests require probable cause. Federal regulations allow CDL holders to be breath or blood alcohol tested at random, when there is merely a suspicion of being under the influence, or after a crash where alcohol is suspected to be involved.
Myth #4: My boss is never going to know about my DWI or traffic ticket.
This myth is a very common one.
How’s she going to know? Well, you’re going to have to tell her. Under Texas law, you have 7 days to report a traffic conviction or DWI conviction to Texas DPS and your employer, in writing.
It does not matter if the conviction is in Texas or in another state. It does not matter if it’s a “serious traffic offense” or just a regular one. So, that plain vanilla speeding ticket could end up in you losing your job. Employers don’t like drivers who pick up traffic tickets.
Also, it’s illegal in Texas for your employer to have you driving a commercial vehicle with a license suspension, so it’s also illegal for you to keep this info from your employer.
Myth #5: It’s my first DWI, so I can get an occupational license and keep driving my rig.
You cannot get an “occupational CDL.” You’ll be out of work as a commercial driver for a year after a DWI conviction, guaranteed. That’s why having an experienced El Paso DWI attorney is so important.
After your suspension for any reason, be ready for reinstatement fees and surcharges.
It’s important to note, though, that the Class C (operator’s) portion of your driver’s license will only be suspended for the same amount of time as someone without a CDL. In other words, you’ll be able to drive to school, work, or run errands like a normal driver, but you won’t be able to operate a commercial vehicle. Check out those rules in another post!
Remember. your traffic ticket attorney can challenge the facts of the traffic stop and resulting citation, as well as fight that suspension. Let’s keep you on the road and making money!