There are millions of commercial vehicles on the roads in the United States. From trucks to buses, these vehicles tend to be larger and heavier than passenger cars. A person who operates a commercial vehicle is required to get a commercial driver's license. This license can affect the type of penalties that a driver will face if he or she is arrested or convicted of driving under the influence (DUI) of drugs or alcohol.
It is important to be aware that the commercial DUI penalties can apply even if a driver is convicted of a DUI when that driver is operating a noncommercial vehicle. Because of this, it is a good idea to contact an Atlanta DUI defense attorney, like Richard Lawson, if you or your loved one hold a CDL and are facing DUI charges.
Under Georgia law, a commercial driver's license (CDL) is "a license issued in accordance with the requirements of this article to an individual which authorizes the individual to drive a class of commercial motor vehicle." Ga. Code Ann. § 40-5-142(6) (2015). A commercial vehicle is defined as, "a motor vehicle designed or used to transport passengers or property." § 40-5-142(7). Commercial vehicles can be:
- Vehicles that have "a gross vehicle weight rating of 26,001 or more pounds or such lesser rating as determined by federal regulation."
- Vehicles that are "designed to transport 16 or more passengers, including the driver."
- Vehicles that transport "hazardous materials as designated under 49 U.S.C. Section 5103 and is required to be placarded in accordance with the Motor Carrier Safety Rules prescribed by the United States Department of Transportation, Title 49 C.F.R. Part 172, subpart F or is transporting any quantity of a material listed as a select agent or toxin in Title 42 C.F.R. Part 73." Id.
Commercial Drivers And DUI
The blood alcohol level that is permissible for a commercial vehicle driver is lower than the level allowed for a regular motor vehicle driver. In Georgia, "[a] person shall not drive or be in actual physical control of any moving commercial motor vehicle while there is 0.04 percent or more by weight of alcohol in such person's blood, breath, or urine." § 40-6-391(i). If the commercial license holder is arrested while driving a noncommercial vehicle, the legal limit is .08, as it is with other non-commercial vehicle drivers of legal drinking age. § 40-6-391(a)(5).
A commercial driver can face additional penalties than a normal driver if he or she is convicted of driving under the influence. These can include both administrative and criminal consequences. In addition, a DUI can affect a commercial driver's ability to work for a period of time, as license suspension is often one of the penalty's for a DUI conviction.
Implied Consent And License Suspension
Every state has adopted some form of implied consent law, including Georgia. Like other drivers, commercial drivers must also comply with the implied consent law. The law states:
- "Any person who drives a commercial motor vehicle anywhere in the state shall be deemed to have given consent, subject to the provisions of Code Sections 40-5-55 and 40-6-392, to a test or tests of that person's blood, breath, or urine for the purpose of determining that person's alcohol concentration or the presence of other drugs."§ 40-5-153(a).
Thus, by driving on the roads of the state a driver has consented to take a chemical test. Refusing to submit to a test can result in additional consequences for the individual who is arrested for driving while intoxicated. Commercial drivers who refuse to take a DUI test can risk losing their license for one year. However, a driver charged with a DUI can request a hearing with the Georgia Department of Driver Services to appeal the suspension. The time frame that a driver has to make the appeal is extremely short. The driver must request a hearing within 30 days or the driver will lose the right to make an appeal.
License Suspension For DUI
Under Georgia law, a driver is disqualified from driving a commercial vehicle for one year if a driver is convicted of a DUI. § 40-5-151(a.1). A second DUI conviction can result in a driver being "disqualified from driving a commercial motor vehicle for life." § 40-5-151(c).
Criminal Penalties For Commercial DUI
In addition to license suspension, a driver convicted of driving under the influence may also face a number of criminal penalties.
The first DUI is usually a misdemeanor charge. A first DUI conviction can lead to:
- Fines: The fine could be between $300-$1000
- Jail Time: A person convicted of DUI could face a minimum of 24 hours all the way up to 12 months in prison. A common punishment is between 1-10 days behind bars.
- Community Service: A total of 40 hours of community service could be required. If the offender was under the age of 21 and had a BAC under .08 then he or she could be required to complete 20 hours of community service.
- Participation in, and completion of, a DUI Alcohol or Drug Risk Reduction Program: This must be done 120 days after a conviction or 90 days after getting out of jail.
- A clinical evaluation and treatment, if recommended
- Probation: The probation could last up to 12 months.
The penalties for DUI increase with each subsequent conviction. A second DUI conviction is still considered a misdemeanor but the penalties are more severe. A third conviction is a high or aggravated misdemeanor and a fourth DUI conviction is a felony.
Contact An Atlanta DUI Attorney
If you or a loved one has been charged with a DUI in Atlanta, commercial or otherwise, you want a skilled and knowledgeable attorney on your side. Richard Lawson has been defending clients against DUI charges throughout Georgia for over two decades. Call his office today at (404) 816-4440 or you can contact him online and let his extensive experience in DUI defense work for you.