Drivers of commercial motor vehicles are held to a much higher standard than drivers of passenger vehicles, largely because of the size of the trucks they drive, the specialized training and licenses they require, and (in some cases) the nature of the cargo they carry. Commercial drivers have a breath or blood alcohol concentration (BAC) limit of 0.04, which is only half the legal limit for most other drivers under Texas state law.
A conviction for driving while intoxicated (DWI) in Texas (also known as driving under the influence or DUI in many other states) can also be much more consequential for people with commercial driver’s licenses (CDLs) because the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA)states that a drunk driving conviction is a serious traffic violation that can result in a driver being disqualified from operating a commercial vehicle.
If you were recently arrested for a commercial DWI anywhere in the greater Dallas area, you cannot afford to delay in seeking legal representation. You are going to want to be sure that you are working with an experienced criminal defense lawyer.
The Law Office of RJ Harber represents commercial drivers who have been charged with a DWI. We know how important your driving privileges are to your career and your livelihood, and we’ll aggressively fight to minimize the impact this arrest will have on your life. We will discuss the specifics of your case and answer any questions you might have when you call (214) 389-1189 or reach out to us online to schedule a confidential consultation.
DWI Laws and Commercial Drivers
Texas Penal Code § 49.04 is the state DWI law that establishes that a person commits the crime of DWI when they are intoxicated while operating a motor vehicle in a public place. Intoxication is defined under Texas Penal Code § 49.01(2) as meaning not having the normal use of mental or physical faculties because of the introduction of alcohol or a controlled substance into the body or having a BAC of 0.08 or more.
FMCSA states, however, that 0.04 is the BAC limit for commercial motor vehicle operators, and a person who is required to have a CDL and is operating a commercial motor vehicle with a BAC of 0.04 or more is considered to be driving under the influence and is subject to the disqualification sanctions in the federal regulations. While a commercial driver cannot be charged with DUI for operating a passenger vehicle when they have a BAC of 0.04, it’s vital to understand that standard DWI convictions for alleged BAC violations of 0.08 or higher in passenger vehicles by people with CDLs can still impact their ability to operate commercial vehicles.
A commercial vehicle is defined by Texas Penal Code § 49.01(5) as a motor vehicle ( or combination of vehicles) that is used to transport property or passengers that:
- Weighs 26,001 or more pounds including a towed unit weighing more than 10,000 pounds;
- Can transport sixteen or more passengers (including the driver); or
- Is transporting hazardous materials and must be placarded under the Code of Federal Regulations.
Texas Transportation Code § 522.102 establishes that a commercial motor vehicle driver must consent to the taking of one or more specimens of their breath, blood, or urine to determine their alcohol concentration or the presence of a controlled substance in their body. Refusal to submit to testing will result in a driver being suspended from service for 24 hours and being disqualified from driving a commercial vehicle for at least one year.
What Are the Penalties for DWI with a CDL?
When a commercial driver is arrested for a DWI crime in Texas, they can face the same penalties as the driver of a traditional passenger vehicle. This can mean a possible sentence of up to 180 days in jail, a fine of up to $4,500.
A DWI conviction can also mean a driver’s license suspension of up to one year, but it is usually the CDL that is of the most concern to most commercial drivers. Under Texas Transportation Code § 522.081(b)(2), a person with a CDL or commercial learner’s permit is disqualified from driving a commercial motor vehicle for one year for their first DWI conviction, refusing to submit to testing, or having a BAC of 0.04 or more. The suspension will be three years for any of those offenses involving a driver operating a vehicle requiring to be placarded for hazardous materials.
Professional Defense for Your CDL License
Commercial drivers may be suspected of being under the influence of alcohol or a controlled substance when they are actually exhibiting other symptoms that might be more related to fatigue after making long drives. Police officer observations are always subjective, and most cases will hinge on the BAC of an alleged offender.
Even if your BAC was over the legal limit, you should now that any one of several kinds of minor errors by the officer who administered a test could negatively impact the accuracy of the test and make the results inadmissible in court. For example, you may have agreed to perform tests on equipment that was not properly maintained, the person administering the test might not have been authorized to do so, or some tests might not have been administered properly.
In cases in which a driver is suspected of driving under the influence of an illegal or prescription drug, it is important to remember that a test showing that a drug was present in a person’s system is not necessarily evidence that they were impaired at the time of an alleged offense.
Were you arrested for a commercial DWI in Dallas or a surrounding area of Texas? Make sure that you contact the Law Office of RJ Harber as soon as possible.
Our firm has successfully represented individuals accused of drunk and drugged driving crimes. We are prepared to help people who drive professionally keep their CDL, and we’ll work hard to preserve your right to continue driving to support yourself and your loved ones. We know you likely have questions about your rights and your defense, so contact a Dallas commercial DWI lawyer by calling (214) 389-1189 or by reaching out to us online today.