As a Commercial Driver’s License (CDL) holder, you probably spend a lot of time behind the wheel of your work vehicle, not to mention your personal car. There’s a fair chance that at some point you may receive a ticket for some type of traffic violation. However, Pennsylvania law holds you to a higher standard than other drivers. For CDL violations, penalties and other consequences are much more severe. Additionally, a CDL ticket can affect your livelihood. A license suspension, CDL violation points, or similar sanctions means you cannot work. When a ticket impacts your entire household and ability to earn a living, representation from skilled CDL traffic lawyers is essential.
At Worgul, Sarna & Ness, Criminal Defense Attorneys, our traffic lawyers in Greensburg appreciate that CDL traffic violations and tickets can have a considerable impact on your career and family. However, there are ways to defend these cases and avoid negative effects on your CDL license. Let us help you obtain the best possible outcome.
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Overview of CDL Laws
The Federal Commercial Motor Vehicle Safety Act was enacted in 1986, requiring all US states to implement laws and regulations regarding CDL licenses and activities within their respective jurisdictions. The Pennsylvania Department of Transportation (PennDOT) is the state agency that administers the program, ensuring that commercial drivers have the proper skills and knowledge to operate vehicles falling into different classes.
- Class A: A vehicle or combination of vehicles weighing 26,001 or more pounds, comprising cargo that weighs more than 10,000 pounds. By “combination,” the statute refers to a semi towing a trailer.
- Class B: A single vehicle weighing 26,001 or more, in which the cargo is 10,000 or less.
- Class C: This category includes all other vehicles that don’t meet the criteria of Class A or Class B, but which are intended to transport 16 or more passengers. Vehicles carrying hazardous materials are also categorized within Class C.
Categories of CDL Traffic Violations
As part of its duties, PennDOT also oversees CDL traffic violations, license suspensions, disqualifications for a CDL license. There are several violations that can lead to a CDL ticket or other charges.
Major CDL Violations: Some violations of traffic or CDL laws are classified as “major” because they’re quite severe and present a safety risk to others on the road. Examples include:
- Leaving the scene of a motor vehicle accident;
- Refusing to take a chemical test to determine blood alcohol concentration (BAC), in violation of Pennsylvania’s implied consent statute;
- Using the commercial vehicle in connection with committing a felony, including various acts that violate Pennsylvania law on drug possession, trafficking, or manufacturing;
- Operating a commercial vehicle while the CDL has been suspended or revoked, or having some other CDL disqualification;
- Causing a death through negligent operation of a commercial vehicle; and,
- Other violations considered major under federal and state law.
Serious Traffic Violations for CDL Holders: These CDL violations are not as grave as those designated as major, mainly because the conduct doesn’t present as considerable of a risk to the public. Still, the laws are still very strict. Serious CDL violations are:
- Speeding at a rate of 15 miles per hour or more in excess of the posted limit;
- Improper lane changes;
- Following too closely;
- Driving without a CDL, or driving without a properly issued CDL in your possession;
- Operating a commercial vehicle without the proper Class CDL, according to weight, number of passengers, and type of hazardous material as described above;
- Driving recklessly or in a way as to demonstrate a disregard for the safety of people or property; and,
- Additional serious traffic violations listed by statute.
DUI as a CDL Holder: If you’re charged with drunk driving in Pennsylvania, the matter is automatically considered a major violation. Acts that could lead to an arrest include:
- Driving any vehicle while under the influence of controlled substances;
- Operating a commercial vehicle with a BAC of .04 or higher;
- Driving any vehicle in violation of state drunk driving laws.
When you are a CDL holder, it doesn’t matter whether you were operating a commercial vehicle or your personal car. If you’re arrested for DUI because you’re impaired or your BAC is above the legal limit of .08 percent, your conduct is a major CDL violation.
Consequences for CDL Tickets and Violations
As a CDL holder, the sanctions under federal or state law depend on whether the offense is a major or serious violation.
Major Violations and Disqualifications for CDL License: Even the first time you commit a major violation, your CDL is disqualified for one year. If you were hauling hazardous materials at the time, the matter could lead to an automatic three-year disqualification. Your second major violation is a lifetime CDL suspension, though you may qualify for reinstatement after 10 years.
Serious Violations for CDL License Holders: While there’s no CDL violation points or other implicants for a first-time offense, the stakes are higher for subsequent serious violations. If your second offense falls within three years after the first, you will have a 60-day disqualification. A third serious violation within three years is a 120-day CDL suspension.
From a practical standpoint, any disqualification or suspension of your CDL could put you out of a job. Your employer will likely terminate you since you cannot work in the position for which you were hired. Plus, many trucking companies and carriers have internal policies that prevent them from hiring anyone who has a violation in their past history.
Defenses and Strategies for CDL Ticket Dismissal
Due to the serious implications for your CDL and livelihood, anyone can see the advantage of retaining experienced CDL defense lawyers. Just like any criminal charge or traffic citation, you won’t be subject to any punishments unless a prosecutor proves you guilty. A CDL traffic ticket attorney can assist by pointing out weaknesses in the evidence or by negotiation for a result with less of an impact.
Many of the same defenses that apply to other drivers are available for CDL holders. For instance, CDL traffic lawyers can present evidence showing:
- A lack of probable cause to pull you over;
- Evidence that refutes impairment under DUI laws;
- Facts making the BAC chemical test results inadmissible; and,
- Many other defenses that may be relevant to your case.
Working with a CDL traffic attorney is critical when fighting the charges and defending your interests. Our lawyers for CDL drivers know that any disqualification can be disastrous to your career, household, and family. We will explore all potential strategies to ensure you stay on the road whenever possible.
Call Now to Set Up a Consultation with Our Greensburg CDLTraffic Lawyers
If you received a ticket and are facing CDL suspension, disqualification, or other penalties for CDL violations, please contact Worgul, Sarna & Ness, Criminal Defense Attorneys right away. We’re better able to assist with you with CDL ticket dismissal and defense when we get involved with your case as early on as possible.
You can reach us to schedule a free consultation by calling (724) 834-1275 or submitting the details online. Our CDL traffic attorneys represent commercial drivers in Greensburg and throughout Westmoreland County, and we look forward to working with you.