Many people rely on their Pennsylvania commercial driver’s licenses (CDL) to earn a living. The Pennsylvania Department of Transportation (PennDOT) has many requirements for obtaining a CDL and imposes high standards for maintaining these licenses. However, a DUI conviction may jeopardize your CDL and result in a temporary or permanent disqualification, which may keep you from your livelihood.
If you have a CDL and require that license to do your job, you need to take DUI charges seriously. If you’ve been charged with a DUI, you need an experienced Pittsburgh DUI attorney who can help protect your rights. Not only does a DUI jeopardize your CDL, you may also be subject to harsh penalties including jail time and hefty fines.
Contact Worgul, Sarna & Ness, Criminal Defense Attorneys, LLC today at (412) 281-2146.
CDL DUI Laws in Pennsylvania
If you have your CDL, then Pennsylvania has a specific DUI law that applies to you. Under 75 Pa. Code §3802(f), you cannot drive, operate, or be in actual physical control of the movement of a commercial vehicle or school bus or vehicle in any of these circumstances:
- 75 Pa. Code §3802(f)(1)(i)-(ii): After you have imbibed a sufficient amount of alcohol such that your breath or blood alcohol concentration (BAC) is .04 percent within two hours of driving, operating, or being in actual physical control of the movement of a commercial vehicle or .02 percent within two hours of driving, operating, or being in actual physical control of the movement of a school bus or vehicle.
- 75 Pa. Code §3802(f)(2): After you have imbibed a sufficient amount of alcohol that you are rendered incapable of safely driving, operating, or being in actual physical control of the movement of a vehicle.
- 75 Pa. Code §3802(f)(3): While you are under the influence of a controlled substance or combination of controlled substances.
- 75 Pa. Code §3802(f)(4): While you are under the combined influence of alcohol and one or more controlled substances.
Legal Limit for CDL Drivers
It is important you realize the CDL legal limit for a DUI is not the same as for a regular driver in a personal vehicle. If you drive a commercial vehicle, like a delivery van or semi-truck, then your legal limit is a .04 percent BAC. If you are a school bus driver or are responsible for driving another school vehicle, your legal limit is .02 percent BAC, which you could hit after only one drink.
Also, keep in mind that your BAC could be zero and you may still face a CDL DUI. You can be charged with a DUI for drugged driving if your blood test shows the presence of a controlled substance.
To learn more about when CDL holders can be charged with an impaired driving offense, contact a Pittsburgh CDL DUI lawyer near you at Worgul, Sarna & Ness, Criminal Defense Attorneys. We are here to guide you through the criminal court process and fight for you to keep your commercial license.
Penalties for a Commercial Vehicle DUI
For a first-time CDL DUI, when you have a BAC between .04 and .159, you will be charged with an ungraded misdemeanor. The penalties include:
- Between 48 hours and six months in custody
- Fines up to $5,000
- CDL disqualification for 12 months (or 36 months if carrying hazmat)
- Personal driver’s license suspension for 12 months
- Alcohol highway safety school
- Alcohol and/or drug treatment
A DUI is a serious conviction if you have a CDL. In addition to incarceration and fines, you may face disqualification for a CDL. The length of disqualification depends on the nature of the DUI conviction and may even be permanent.
Your CDL License After a Pittsburgh DUI
Commercial driving license penalties after a DUI include:
- First DUI – 1-year CDL disqualification
- First DUI while transporting hazardous materials (hazmat) – 3-year CDL disqualification
- Second DUI – Lifetime CDL disqualification
In addition, a person who drives a commercial vehicle in Pennsylvania is considered by the law to have provided consent for a breath, blood, or urine test for BAC upon the direction of a police officer. If you refuse to take a test after the officer provides the required warning, you will be disqualified from driving a commercial vehicle in similar fashion as a DUI conviction. This offense may also result in a $100 fine and a requirement to be out of service for 24 hours. If the offense involves the operation of a school bus, the fine is $250 and you must be placed out of service for 30 days.
How Do I Get My CDL Back After a DUI?
If you are disqualified from having a CDL for one or three years, you must wait the full period before you can get your commercial license reinstated. In addition to waiting the prescribed amount of time, you must satisfy all other court requirements. In other words, you need to complete all parts of your sentence, which may include paying fines, paying restitution, completing community service, going through alcohol highway safety school, and completing drug and/or alcohol counseling.
Additionally, if you are convicted of a subsequent DUI, your CDL will be subjected to a lifetime suspension, with a provision for possible reinstatement after 10 years. However, before trying to restore your CDL, you should always speak with a CDL DUI lawyer, because certain other conditions may need to be met.
You will have to retake and pass the CDL driving skills and knowledge tests. You must also go through the entire application process again. You cannot simply start driving a commercial vehicle once enough time has passed. If you pass the tests, you must also pay a reinstatement fee to obtain your new CDL.
Can You Get a CDL With a DUI Conviction in Pennsylvania?
If you have a DUI on your record, it is still possible to obtain a CDL for the first time. While you cannot get a CDL if you are under a driver’s license suspension if your license is valid and up to date, and the sentence for your DUI is complete, you can move forward with taking the CDL knowledge and skills tests.
Defending Against a CDL DUI in Pittsburgh
If you are a commercial driver and are facing a CDL DUI or a DUI related to your personal vehicle, call our CDL DUI attorneys right away. There are ways to defend against these charges, including but not limited to demonstrating:
- You were subject to an unreasonable traffic stop.
- You were subject to an unconstitutional search and seizure.
- You were stopped at an unlawful Pittsburgh DUI checkpoint.
- The police lacked probable cause to make a DUI arrest.
- A breath, blood, or urine test was improperly administered.
- The chemical test equipment was not calibrated.
- The chemical test equipment was flawed or defective.
- The chemical test’s results are invalid or unreliable.
- The prosecutor has insufficient evidence to prove you committed the DUI beyond a reasonable doubt.
Do Not Accept Accelerated Rehabilitative Disposition (ARD) Lightly
First-time DUI offenders in Pennsylvania have the opportunity to enter into ARD, a pretrial diversion program that provides an alternative to going to trial. Through ARD, you may be placed under supervision and, upon satisfying prescribed conditions, avoid conviction and a criminal record.
However, the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation (PennDOT) considers ARD participation as a DUI conviction and can still sanction CDL holders with license disqualification. So, once PennDOT is notified of your participation in ARD, your CDL will be disqualified, regardless of it you were in a commercial or personal vehicle at the time of the arrest.
The only way to absolutely avoid disqualification is to get the state to drop the DUI charges or to be found not guilty of the offense after trial. With the help of an experienced defense attorney, your CDL DUI charges could possibly be dismissed or reduced to a non-DUI offense.
Protecting Your CDL from a DUI
If you are a CDL holder and you have been charged with a DUI, you should consult with an attorney who can help you analyze your options and avoid consequences that impact your ability to earn a living. You need an experienced Pittsburgh DUI attorney by your side so you can make informed decisions regarding your case.