If you have a commercial driver’s license (CDL), this is most likely your livelihood. You rely on your ability to drive to put food on the table and a roof over your head. What happens when this is jeopardized because of a DUI arrest or serious traffic violations? What can you do to protect your license and your job?
Your first step should be to involve a Tampa DUI attorney. At Thomas & Paulk, we offer experienced legal counsel not only in criminal court proceedings related to DUI (commercial and otherwise) but also in any Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles (DHSMV) proceedings. It takes a two-pronged approach to defend your interests in the face of a DUI arrest, and we are highly experienced and qualified to handle both.
DUI Charges Are Different for Commercial Drivers
In Florida and nationwide, CDL holders face different rules and laws related to driving under the influence. It is illegal to operate a commercial vehicle with a blood alcohol level (BAL) of .04% or greater, which is half the legal limit for other drivers. Truckers are held to a higher standard when it comes to drinking and driving, and you could even face DUI charges if you had any detectable amount of alcohol in your system and you allegedly failed field sobriety tests. Law enforcement will look for any evidence to build probable cause for a DUI arrest and charge.
What’s more, if you have a CDL and are pulled over and arrested for DUI in a regular vehicle – not a commercial truck – you could still have your commercial driver’s license suspended.
A first DUI conviction or a first refusal of a breath test or blood test may result in a one-year CDL suspension in Florida. A commercial DUI while transporting hazardous materials may result in a 3-year suspension in most states.
Other Traffic Violations That Lead to CDL Disqualification
DUI isn’t the only offense that can lead to CDL disqualification. In fact, you could be temporarily prohibited from getting a commercial driver’s license if you are found to be operating a commercial vehicle without a CDL! Driving a commercial vehicle without a CDL is a misdemeanor offense in Florida, punishable by up to 1 year in jail and a fine of up to $1,000. You could also face a citation for operating a commercial vehicle without the proper CDL (Class A, Class B, or Class C, depending on the weight and whether you’re transporting passengers).
Reckless driving could result in CDL suspension, as may any combination of two or more serious traffic violations within a three-year period in Florida. Serious traffic violations may include driving 15 miles per hour or more above the speed limit, following too closely, or making an improper lane change. If a commercial driver receives 2 serious traffic violations within 3 years, they may face a 60-day CDL suspension. A 120-day suspension may apply for 3 violations within 3 years.
Important Note for Interstate Truckers
If you drive in multiple states, you also have an obligation as a commercial driver to report any criminal conviction or traffic violation to the state that issued your CDL. You must report this within 30 days. For example, you may have been issued your CDL in Florida and were ticketed for an improper lane change in California. The California violation doesn’t “stay in California.” It must be reported and will appear on your Florida driving record. The same applies to DUI charges – they are reported between states under the Interstate Driver License Compact.
How to Protect Your CDL in Florida
You have the right to challenge the suspension of your commercial driver’s license. In Florida, the DHSMV has the authority to suspend or revoke your CDL, but you have the right to request a hearing to contest this. The DHSMV hearing is an administrative proceeding, overseen by an administrative law judge who will hear the evidence and rule on the matter. If you do not request a hearing, the DHSMV may suspend your CDL without further ado.
Preparation for your CDL suspension hearing is an important aspect of the counsel we provide at Thomas & Paulk. We can handle this in conjunction with any criminal case related to DUI, drug charges, reckless driving, or another offense that jeopardizes your commercial license. As Tampa DUI lawyers with more than 40 years of collective legal experience, including time as former prosecutors, we know the ins and outs of Florida DHSMV hearings and criminal court proceedings. We also understand how important it is for you to keep your commercial driver’s license. That is why we fight for the best outcome for every client. To learn more, give us a call at (813) 321-7323 – your consultation is free!