Compared to regular drivers, the state of California holds commercial vehicle drivers at higher standards with regards to traffic laws. When a person is accused of a DUI offense, and they drive a commercial vehicle, a conviction in most cases leads to a suspension of their driver’s license. If driving commercial vehicles was your job, a suspension of your license means you are out of work. When you feel the suspension of your license is unfair, you can fight it with valid reasons with the help of a DUI lawyer. At San Jose DUI Attorney Law Firm, we are experienced and reliable in helping you fight against your DUI charges, and possible suspension of your license.
What Vehicles are Classified as Commercial in California?
The law recognizes two kinds of commercial vehicles. Some require a driver to have a category or class B driver’s license, while others require a category or class C license that has a commercial endorsement.
Large trucks are categorized as large commercial trucks and require their operators to hold a class B license. They include single vehicles that have a gross weight of over 26,000 pounds and three-axle vehicles that weigh more than 6,000 pounds.
Some smaller vehicles can be categorized as commercial vehicles as well and driven with the standard class C license. However, to drive them, the driver is required to obtain an endorsement from the DMV to drive them as a driver for commercial vehicles. Some of these vehicles include:
- Passenger vehicles with a capacity to carry ten or more persons
- Double trailers
- Tank vehicles
- School buses
- Vehicles that carry hazardous material and need to have a placard
- Some farm vehicles.
However, recreational vehicles and some agricultural vehicles that don’t need their operator to have a driver’s license are not categorized as commercial vehicles.
DUI Laws on Commercial Vehicles
The law regarding commercial DUI in California is contained in VEH 23152(d). This statute states that it is illegal for an individual with a blood alcohol content of 0.04% or more to operate a commercial vehicle, as stated in section 15210. For the prosecution, the law assumes the driver, when being arrested, was driving with a BAC of 0.04% or more. Additionally, when the driver was subjected to a blood chemical test, probably in three hours, their BAC was still 0.04% or more.
Citing a Commercial Driver for DUI Driving
The consequences faced by commercial drivers that get a DUI conviction are severe. Various situations result in DUI punishments for drivers of commercial vehicles. Some of these situations include:
Driving Under the Influence of Alcohol
A commercial driver is said to be driving intoxicated if:
- Their physical and mental abilities are noticeably impaired
- They are unable to drive cautiously as an ordinary sober person would under such circumstances
Driving when above the Legally Acceptable Alcohol Limit
A commercial driver in California is considered to be driving with alcohol over the legal limit in their system; their BAC is 0.04% or more. Regular drivers found driving with a 0.08% or more alcohol content is also beyond the legal limit.
When a person has reached the legal BAC limit, it is already a DUI offense by itself. The prosecution does not need to prove the driver was challenged to drive well to get a conviction of a DUI offense.
Drugs intoxicate the Driver
In California, when a driver is intoxicated with drugs and is driving, they are committing a DUI offense. A driver may be driving under the influence of drugs only whether controlled or prescribed drugs and is still prosecuted for a DUI. Sometimes a driver can have in their system a combination of both alcohol and drugs; this is also a DUI offense if found driving under the circumstances.
VEH 23152(d) Penalties for Commercial DUI
There are many DUI offenses a commercial driver can be charged with that depend on the circumstances of the crime. Here, we discuss various penalties with regard to different circumstances surrounding the offense.
Penalties for a Commercial DUI without Third Party Injuries
If a person is a first time offender and caused no injuries while driving, they will still be prosecuted for a DUI offense. Some of the likely penalties a driver would face include:
- Being sentenced to a summary or informal probation lasting between three and five years
- County jail sentence of not more than six months
- Being ordered to pay cash fines ranging between $300 and $1,000. This is in addition to penalty assessment fees that will total to between $1,500 and $2,000.
- Being ordered to attend a DUI school for three months. This school is designed to educate offenders on drug and alcohol consequences.
- Having your California driver’s license suspended for not less than one year.
Just like a regular DUI, the process is similar to commercial DUI, but the penalties for the later are more severe as well as longer suspensions of your license.
Second DUI Offense and Loss of your CDL Permanently
When a person is convicted of a DUI offense for the second time as a commercial driver, they risk having their license suspended for the rest of their life. When you get arrested for this offense, it is crucial to get in touch with a DUI defense lawyer in the shortest time possible.
DUI Offense with Bodily Injuries
A commercial DUI offense that leads in injuries to another party is prosecuted under VEH 23153. This offense is a wobbler one meaning the driver may be charged on felony or misdemeanor charges. This is at the discretion of the prosecutor, although they consider few factors in determining the charges.
If you are convicted of a misdemeanor DUI charge causing bodily injuries, the penalties one is likely to face include:
- Being sentenced to a summary or informal probation lasting between three and five years
- Serving a county jail time for between five days to a year
- Being ordered to pay a cash fine ranging between $390 and $5,000
- Attending a DUI school for a drug and alcohol program lasting three or nine or eighteen or thirty months, as the judge sees fit
- A suspension of your commercial driver’s license for a period ranging between one and three years
- Paying restitution to the injuries victim.
If on the same charge, you are convicted of a felony offense, one of the primary penalties is California state imprisonment. The number of years a person will serve depends on a few factors. These are:
- The history of the driver. Does he or she hold a previous conviction for reckless driving or DUI offense?
- How many people were injured as a result of his or her drunk driving
- Are the injuries caused to the victim significant or minor?
A felony conviction under the laws of three strikes in California will be a strike when the victim sustains significant injuries. Additionally, the defendant may face other penalties other than incarceration, such as:
- Paying of cash fines ranging between $1,015 and $5,000
- Attending a DUI school for eighteen to thirty months
- The driver is registered as a Habitual Traffic Offender (HTO) according to VEH 14601 for a period of three years
- The driver will have their commercial driver’s license revoked for five years.
Consequences for Refusing to Submit to a Chemical Test
When a commercial driver arrested for suspicion of drunk driving refuses to submit to a chemical test, their driver’s license is automatically suspended for a year. In some cases, a refusal may also lead to the defendant serving more jail time, especially if they have a previous DUI conviction. Some of the other penalties include:
- If one has no prior convictions on a DUI charge and refuses to take a chemical test, they will be sentenced to an additional 48 hours jail time. Additionally, they will be required to spend six more months in a DUI school on top of the regular time. These punishments are in addition to having your license suspended for a period of one year.
- When a defendant has one prior DUI conviction and still refuses to submit to a chemical test, they will be sentenced to an extra 96 hours of jail time. Additionally, their driver’s license will be revoked for two years.
- A commercial driver with two previous DUI convictions and refuses a chemical test when arrested, he or she will have extra jail time of ten days. In addition, they will be unable to drive for three years as their license will be revoked for that period.
- A driver with three or more prior convictions and still refuses a chemical test will be sentenced to extra jail time of eighteen days. Additionally, their driver’s license will be revoked for a period of three years.
Obtaining a Restricted License Following a Commercial DUI Conviction
The law does not allow a driver to operate a commercial vehicle when their license is revoked or under suspension. However, it is possible to have your license downgraded from a commercial one to a non-commercial one – the standard class C license for driving a smaller vehicle or category M for a motorcycle rider. When this is done, a driver can apply to have a restricted to drive other vehicles that are not commercial.
With a restricted license, a driver is able to:
- Go to work and back home as long as they are not commercial drivers
- Drive themselves or their loved ones to a hospital and back when necessary
- To take their child to school and back, especially in areas where there is no school bus or public transport.
- To attend DUI school and back.
Sometimes a driver can apply to have an ignition interlock device in their vehicle along with a restricted driver’s license. Having an IID in one’s car allows them to be able to drive anywhere, even when their license is suspended.
Fighting Commercial Driver License DUI charges
The strategies your lawyer will use to fight against a commercial DUI offense are the same for a standard DUI offense. Your DUI attorney can use either one or several of the following strategies to fight your charges. These strategies include:
Inaccurate Chemical Tests
Many people believe that breath or chemical blood test results are 100% accurate. However, many reasons make these results inaccurate. Some of these are:
- A defendant that is on a high protein diet may have incorrect results. These diets are able to produce substances known as ketones that are similar to alcohol. A Ketosis breath, in many cases, smells like alcohol breath. This can trigger elevated BAC results with a breathalyzer machine. Some of the machines are unable to make a distinction between alcohol and ketones in a defendant’s blood. A defendant may also be suffering from other conditions that may result in increased ketones that will affect the chemical tests. Fasting, diabetes, hypoglycemia, or high protein diets elevate the production of ketones in the system.
- The defendant may be having other medical conditions like acidity, heartburn, or GERD that elevate BAC readings, when a person suffers from these conditions and takes the slightest amount of alcohol, a phenomenon known as mouth alcohol is created. This results in high measures of your BAC when a breath test is conducted.
- There was a lack of proper procedure by the police or the laboratory when performing the chemical test as stipulated under Title 17. If your lawyer is able to challenge the processes used effectively and create doubt, this may result in the dismissal of the charges against the defendant.
- At the point when chemical tests were performed, it may indicate a rising pattern meaning that the driver had lower alcohol content in their blood when they were arrested.
Irregular Procedures by the Police While Conducting the Arrest
Even when the driver was drunk driving, there is a set protocol that the law enforcement officer must adhere to. If they are found not to have followed the proper procedures, it may lead to dismissal of the charges or the evidence they obtained to be excluded. Some of the improper procedures are:
- Asking a driver to stop without a probable reason to request the stop
- Failing to adhere to the regulations in Title 17 for carrying out a chemical test
- Failing to advise the driver of the possible consequences for refusing to take a chemical test
- Failing to recite the Miranda rights to the defendant at the time of the DUI arrest.
Commercial DUI Offenses Plea Bargains
Commercial drivers DUI conviction attracts severe penalties, making it a smart move for a driver to take into consideration a plea bargain. The most used plea bargain is trying to get the prosecutor to reduce your charges to wet or dry reckless charges.
This is an informal name given to many DUI reduction charges. A person cannot be arrested and charged with wet reckless because by itself is not a charge. Wet reckless is another name to mean reckless driving as described in VEH 23103 as:
- Resulting from plea bargain and Tahl waiver to driving under the influence charges
- Wet reckless comes with a note on the criminal record of the defendant that indicates the offense involved drug or alcohol use.
The last element of including a note is what distinguishes a wet reckless from a dry reckless charge. This distinction becomes important in understanding that a charge in wet reckless is a priorable while a dry reckless one isn’t.
Why Wet Reckless Charges are Better than DUI Charges
- When a person has their charges reduced to those of wet reckless, they do not receive a court-ordered suspension on their license. However, the DMV may suspend your license, but if the defendant installs an Ignition Interlock Device in their vehicle, they are able to continue driving.
- A wet reckless conviction results in lesser jail time mostly between 5 days and 90 days
- The fine charged on a wet reckless conviction is lower ranging between $145 to $1,000
- The probation period for a defendant on a wet reckless charge is much shorter, normally ranging between one and two years
- The defendant is ordered to attend a DUI school for a much shorter period of six weeks
- A defendant is not mandated to install an IID device, but if they wish to keep driving they do so at their will
- There is no record on the driver’s criminal record for a DUI offense
Wet Reckless Plea Bargain Consequences
The primary consequence of a plea bargain on wet reckless is that it is a priorable offense. This means that when a defendant is convicted of another DUI offense within a period of ten years from the first conviction, it is considered as a repeat offense. The law makes it that the penalties for second-time and third-time offenders are increased with each offense.
Aside from the above, a defendant convicted of a wet reckless offense faces other consequences. These are:
- The defendant’s insurance provider may treat the offense like a DUI, meaning higher premiums or cancellation of the policy altogether.
- An arrest on a DUI charge automatically triggers a DMV hearing. Even when the original charge is reduced to wet reckless one, the driver must still go through the hearing and try to win it.
- 5 points addition on the DMV record for the driver
This is another plea bargain that is commonly used by lawyers in DUI charges. Many lawyers will advise their client to accept a plea bargain of dry reckless if charged with a DUI for various reasons. For purposes of discussion, these reasons, we shall call them the advantages of dry reckless charges over a DUI charge.
Advantages of a Dry Reckless Charge over DUI Charges
Dry reckless is a term used to define situations where a driver charged with a DUI in California will use it as a lesser charge. However, it differs from wet reckless because there is no indication that drugs or alcohol were used involved during the arrest. When a person is said to be driving recklessly, it is where their driving is intentional without regard to the safety of others or their property.
One of the main advantages of a dry reckless charge over a DUI or wet reckless is that sentencing is not enhanced due to repeat offenses. This means that with every subsequent offense, the sentencing is not enhanced.
A person convicted on a dry reckless offense faces a shorter jail sentence. This is opposed to one facing a typical DUI charge. Compared to a DUI offense that carries a sentence of six months in county jail, a dry reckless charge will carry a penalty of not more than 90 days in county jail.
A probation sentencing also carries a shorter period as compared to a typical DUI one. With a dry reckless charge, probation will last a maximum of two years, while a DUI probation will last for three to five years.
Lower rates of fine are another advantage of having dry reckless charges as opposed to typical DUI charges. The maximum fine a person can pay is $1,000 with a dry reckless charge. However, if charged with a DUI charge, the defendant will pay a fine in addition to assessment charges. In such a case, the fines can rise to $3,000, two to three times over those of dry reckless.
When a person is convicted of a dry reckless charge, the court will not order a mandatory suspension of their license. If convicted on a standard DUI, automatically, their license is suspended for six months. If the person had a previous DUI or wet reckless conviction, the period is extended. However, it is essential to note that the DMV suspension is separate from the court-ordered suspension. The DMV can allow the defendant convicted of dry reckless to continue driving as long as they install an IID device in their car.
For a commercial driver to avoid getting their license suspended, they must work with their lawyer to persuade the prosecutor to drop the charges and attend a hearing at the DMV and try to win it.
Another advantage of being convicted on a dry reckless charge is that the defendant will not be ordered to attend a DUI school. Should the court find it necessary, the school will not exceed six weeks, while a regular DUI conviction will call for three to 18 months school program.
Find an San Jose DUI Attorney Near Me
A DUI conviction for a commercial driver’s license can lead to severe penalties, with the mandatory one being the suspension of your license. If you earn your living by driving commercial vehicles, a suspension will mean a loss of income in addition to other severe penalties. This makes it essential to fight against these charges to avoid having your license suspended. At San Jose DUI Attorney Law Firm, we can represent you and fight these charges to ensure a favorable outcome. Get in touch with us today at 408-777-6630, and let us fight these charges for you.