Commercial drivers who get arrested for driving while intoxicated (DWI) in Texas can face more serious penalties than other drivers. For an individual holding a commercial driver's license (CDL), losing that license could mean the loss of a job. A drunk driving conviction can also make it harder to get a job even after the CDL is reinstated.
With so much at stake, commercial DWIs should be handled by an experienced Texas DWI defense lawyer. If you are a driver who was arrested while driving a commercial motor vehicle (CMV), contact an Odessa, Texas commercial DWI lawyer to understand your rights and how to fight the criminal charges against you.
Commercial DWI Laws in Texas
Commercial DWIs are regulated by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA). Commercial drivers are held to a higher standard compared to regular drivers. The blood alcohol content (BAC) for commercial drivers is 0.04% (half the standard of 0.08% for regular drivers).
If a commercial driver's BAC is 0.04% or higher, the driver will immediately be removed from performing safety-sensitive functions, including driving a commercial vehicle. If a driver is convicted of a commercial DWI, the driver will lose his or her commercial driving privileges for one year.
Commercial drivers will also be removed from driving for failing a drug test or refusing a chemical test. According to the FMCSA, refusal to submit to a drug or alcohol test is generally equivalent to testing positive.
Commercial License Suspension
After a DWI arrest, a commercial driver will have to deal with the administrative hearing process for license suspension and the criminal court for the charges.
The administrative process can result in a suspended license even if the driver is never convicted. If you are a commercial driver and want to challenge the administrative license suspension, contact your Texas DWI lawyer as soon as possible because there is a limited time (15 days) to request an administrative license revocation (ALR) hearing.
A commercial driver will have his or her CDL suspended for one year after a first-time DWI. A commercial DWI while operating a vehicle transporting hazardous materials can result in a 3-year CDL disqualification. A second commercial DWI will result in a permanent CDL revocation.
Even if the driver was operating his or her personal vehicle, a DWI with a BAC of 0.08% or higher, or intoxicated by drugs and/or alcohol will result in a license suspension. A commercial driver must notify their employer of a DWI. A commercial driver will be barred from driving during the license suspension period.
Occupational License After a Suspended CDL
Drivers with a license suspended after a DWI in Texas may be eligible to get an occupational license for limited driving to and from work, school, or for essential household duties. However, an occupational license is not valid for commercial driving. A commercial driver will not be eligible to drive a CMV until commercial driving privileges are reinstated.
Criminal Penalties for a Commercial DWI
The criminal penalties associated with a commercial DWI are similar to non-commercial DWI penalties. Most first-time DWIs will be charged as a Class B misdemeanor. The penalties for a first DWI conviction include 3 to 180 days in jail, suspended license, and fine of up to $2,000.
Getting Hired as a Commercial Driver After a DWI
Even when you get your driving privileges reinstated, it can more difficult to get a job as a driver after a DWI. Employers may be less willing to offer a driving job to someone with a DWI on their record. This may also apply to drivers who do not need a CDL, including couriers or food delivery drivers.
Commercial DWI Defenses
The 0.04% BAC limit for commercial drivers is much lower than for regular drivers. This means the results of an inaccurate chemical test can have a much greater impact on commercial drivers. If a commercial driver has one beer during lunch and has a BAC of 0.02%, a faulty breath test device could push that BAC over the legal limit.
A breath testing device can give inaccurate readings for any number of reasons, including improper calibration, certain foods, medicines, or medical issues. Texas DWI defense lawyers are familiar with all the problems that can affect chemical testing devices and understand how to challenge these tests in court. Talk to your Ector County DWI defense attorney about the best defenses available in your case.
Odessa Commercial DWI Lawyer
An experienced commercial DWI defense attorney can help you build a defense that gives you the best shot at a favorable outcome, including keeping your CDL and keeping your job.
If you've been charged with a DWI in a commercial vehicle in Odessa, Texas, the Law Office of E. Jason Leach, PLLC is here to fight for you. E. Jason Leach is a board-certified criminal defense attorney that has dedicated his law practice to defending the accused. To set up a free consultation contact the Law Office of E. Jason Leach today at (432) 552-7000.