Unlike regular drivers, commercial drivers are held to a higher standard in California. If you are accused of DUI while driving a commercial vehicle, your license can end up suspended. If you have valid reasons to believe that your commercial driver’s license suspension is unfair, you can fight back the suspension with the help of a DUI attorney. In Vista, CA and the greater North County, you can rely on the Vista DUI Attorney Law Firm to help you in fighting your DUI case so that you can possibly avoid a license suspension.
Types of Commercial Vehicles and CDL in California
California DUI laws recognize two types of commercial vehicles: large trucks and small commercial vehicles. It further identifies three classes of commercial driving license (CDL). Each Specific level of license permits you to drive a particular type of commercial vehicle. The levels are A, B, and C. Class A commercial driving license allows you to operate any gross combined commercial motor vehicle weighing not less than twenty-six thousand (26000) lbs. The towed vehicle should be weighing over ten thousand (10000) lbs.
Class B commercial driving license permits you to operate or drive any single motor vehicle whose total weight is above twenty-six thousand and one (26001) lbs. The vehicle could also be towering another vehicle whose weight should not exceed ten thousand (10000) pounds.
Class C driving license allows you to drive any commercial motor vehicle besides the ones defined under both class A and B. The vehicle should be carrying a total of sixteen passengers and above or ferrying toxic substances.
Holding a particular class of commercial driving license further specifies the type of a motor vehicle you can be allowed to operate. For instance, if you own a class A CDL, you will be eligible to drive tankers, trucks with two to three trailers (otherwise called combination trucks) and tractor trailers. Class B license will allow you to operate construction based vehicles, city operating buses and any form of delivery trucks. Class C commercial driving license gives you permission to run school buses, Hazmat vehicles, and passenger service vehicles.
DUI and Commercial Driving License Suspension
California driving laws treats CDL holders harshly when caught driving under the influence. Precisely, your driving license is suspended or revoked. The charges not only arise from actual alcohol drinking but also other alcohol-related offenses. Also, if you are a commercial vehicle driver, you will not be subjected to the same levels of alcohol limits as those of regular drivers. For the regular drivers, they will be charged with DUI if their blood alcohol content (BAC) is found to be 0.08% and above. However, for you as a commercial driver, you will be charged with DUI if the levels of the alcohol content are 0.4% and above.
The body that is responsible for issuing and suspending a driving license in California is DMV. Once arrested for any DUI offense, the DMV usually gives you a period of ten (10) days during which you are expected to request for a hearing. The hearing will attempt to save your driving license from possible suspension. If within the ten days you did not ask for any DMV hearing, your case will be taken to court. The prosecution will rely on the evidence presented to them by witnesses and those from the arresting officer.
To substantiate the allegation, the prosecution demands that they are presented with the field sobriety test to show that you were intoxicated. Finally, the trial will find from the DMV if you were holding a commercial driving license. It is upon this confirmation that the DMV is given the go-ahead to suspend your license.
Several cases can result in DUI charges. Each of the situations can result in your commercial driving license suspension. For instance, impairment of your physical and mental ability. In such a case, your driving ability is impaired. That is, under similar conditions and vehicle, you cannot drive like a sober person. You can also be charged with DUI if you are driving over the California blood alcohol limits.
Beside DUI charges, there are other situations in which your commercial driving license can be suspended. These situations include:
- Operating a commercial motor vehicle in a way that is likely to cause any fatal accident; for instance, speeding, swaying along the lane or even possessing or distributing controlled drugs
- Disobeying the police command to take a BAC test. Typically, the police will request that you take the BAC test. Your refusal to submit to the test automatically leads to your commercial driving license suspension
- Driving either a commercial motor vehicle or any other vehicle when your license is under suspension or is revoked. The law requires that you keep away from driving if your license is in suspension until when you have reinstated it or the suspension period has ended
- Driving a commercial motor vehicle when the blood alcohol content is above 0.04 percent
- Your driving license can also be suspended if after causing an accident, you flee or made an attempt to escape
Most often, your license is suspended for a period of thirty days, but there are some situations when your license can be suspended for a more extended period. For instance, if the crime or offense you committed occurred when driving a vehicle ferrying hazardous substance, your license would be suspended for three years.
Lifetime Commercial License Suspension
Drivers of class A and B vehicles are punished severely if they involve themselves in offenses severally. Their licenses are often suspended for life. This is because the training that such drivers receive is of high quality and also, the vehicles they operate are of high risk if recklessly operated. The commercial vehicles managed also demand a high degree of trust; thus, any violation of traffic rules is never tolerated. A life suspension of CDL is often administered if you committed the traffic offense for the second or subsequent time. You can also face a life license suspension if by using a commercial motor vehicle, you committed a felony that involves any controlled drug like marijuana.
The painful truth about life license suspension is that you will never be allowed to operate any commercial vehicle permanently. Although you can appeal your case and have suspension time reduced, such chances are minimal. Also, if approved, the only vehicle you will be permitted to operate is a class C vehicle.
How can I Reinstate my Commercial Driving License after it has been Suspended?
There are ways you can reinstate your driving license following a suspension in California. However, the duration and the conditions that you must meet depend on the reason for your license suspension. You can do any of the following to have your license reinstated:
- Attend and win all the DMV hearings
- Clear the suspension period
- Check if you qualify for a restricted driving permit. If that is the case, get one
- Take and attend any court directed classes and ensure your progress report
- Pay the reinstatement fee or fines and have your license back
Though you can qualify to get your license through the above means, the law generally requires that you stay the entire period of your license suspension to get it back. Also, you are supposed to clear all the fees required by the DMV for the reissue of the license. If during your license suspension, you had degraded your commercial driving license from commercial driving license to regular or non-commercial state, you will have to reapply afresh.
Generally, the reinstatement fee that you are likely to pay vary depending on the reason for your disqualification and your reinstatement request. For instance, license reissue will go for fifty-five (55) dollars, removal of restrictions for twenty (20) dollars, added court restrictions for fifteen (15) dollars, suspension by the APS for one hundred (100) dollars and twenty-four (24) dollars for any drug-related offense.
Where license reinstatement has failed, you can opt for a restricted driving license. However, there are conditions that you must meet to qualify for a restricted license. For instance, your commercial driving license must not have been suspended before, or you were driving a non-commercial vehicle when your license was suspended.
You are eligible to apply for a restricted driving license after 30 days from the day when your license was suspended. However, unlike the original commercial driving license, you will use the grant only when going to work, attending DUI programs, school or attending to an emergency. The permit also unlike the original one, will be valid for only six months after which it will be rendered invalid.
You can qualify to get a restricted driving license if:
- It is established that you agreed to take a BAC test when requested
- You have never had any violation within the last ten (10) years
- Your commercial driving license has not or is not in suspension for any other reason
- You were not less than twenty-one (21) old when you were apprehended
Getting the restricted license does not automatically free you. There are more other things that you are supposed to do. For instance, you are required to pay restricted license fee amounting to one hundred and twenty-five (125) dollars, enroll yourself in DUI programs for the first time offenders and submitting a proof to the DMV that shows your financial responsibility. That notwithstanding, even if you get the restricted license, its legibility will last for only five months. Beyond the period, you will be required to wait until the original suspension ends.
Since reinstating a suspended commercial driving license and any other license is difficult, it is prudent to protect yourself from any condition that can lead to suspension. One of the common reason you can lose your license is when you are marked as a “negligent operator.” you are labeled as a negligent operator in California if you commit any traffic-related offense regardless of whether it is a minor or significant offense. Any violation earns you points which will ultimately qualify you as a negligent operator.
For instance, minor violations like over speeding, improper lane changing and failing to pave the way for pedestrians earns you one point. Some serious violations like the hit and run, DUI charges, and driving using a suspended license earns you two points each. DMV will accumulate your points after a year, two or three. A certain number of points will compel the DMV to disqualify or suspend your driving license for a specified period.
Negligent Operator Hearing
If DMV issues you with a note that you are a negligent operator, you should aptly react. This is because, if they justify their allegation, you will lose your driving license. As such, the negligent operator hearing presents to you an opportunity to defend your license. Among the strategies you could use to safeguard your license include but not limited to:
- Claiming that you were not responsible for the offenses in your driving records- For instance, if the DMV labeled you as a cause of the accident, you can explain that it was not your fault. That your attempt to avoid the accident was beyond your ability. You can also reveal that, though the misfortune or a violation occurred, it was not as a result of wrong driving habits
- Argue that your general driving history is acceptable and thus no valid reason to label you negligent operator. To substantiate this claim, you will be expected to discuss the steps and all the efforts you have put in place to ensure careful driving until the violation occurred. Such a discussion will help clear the doubts that your driving habits have always been questionable
- Claim that your overall driving speed is beyond that of other people or that you drive under many challenging situations. As a result, you tend to make more mistakes unknowingly
- You can also claim that you have been in probation or driving test. Moreover, even if there is some violation, you are improving your driving abilities
- Citing hardships- if for you to arrive at the workplace, you must drive or if your driving is a source of income, let the officers know. This will help soothe their hearts and perhaps understand that if you lose your license, your general livelihood and those of dependents will be jeopardized.
Issues Related to Commercial License Suspension
Several offenses are related to commercial driver’s license suspension. Often, people tend to commit such crimes prior, during and after commercial driving license suspension. Some of them include:
Hit and Run- Causing Injury California Vehicle Code 20002(B) (1)
The offense is considered as a wobbler thus can be charged as either a felony or a misdemeanor. The choice depends on the severity of injuries caused to the third party and also your underlying criminal records. A misdemeanor conviction will lead to penalties which include a jail term for a period of not more than one year, and a fine that ranges between one thousand (1000) to ten thousand (10000) dollars.
In some cases, both the fines and the jail terms apply. Where your offense have been considered a felony, you will face not more than three years imprisonment and a fine of between one thousand to ten thousand (1000-10000) dollars. You can also be given both jail terms and fine penalties.
Driving on a Suspended License
You are likely to commit this offense following the suspension of your commercial driving license. The Penal Code 14601 views it as a crime to drive on a suspended or revoked driving license knowingly. However, before you are charged with the offense, the prosecution has to establish some facts connecting you to the offense. For example, it must be proven that you drove a motor vehicle and while driving, your license was on a suspension. Most often than not, the penalties of driving on a suspended license depend on the reasons that led to your driving license suspension. It also depends on your underlying criminal records.
You can, however, refute the charges by rejecting all the elements of crime associated with the offense. For example, you can claim that you did not know that your license was on a suspension. You can also argue that although your license was already suspended, you were operating on a restricted driving license.
PEN 12500; Driving Without a License
Rather than drive on a suspended license, you may find yourself driving without it entirely. Such an act is viewed as a traffic violation. The legal section above demands that you drive a vehicle in which you own its valid driving license. Violation of the provision for the first time is viewed as a traffic infraction, and its penalties often include fines not exceeding two hundred and fifty (250) dollars. However, if charged as a misdemeanor, you may face severe penalties including utmost six (6) years county jail term and a one thousand (1000) dollars fine.
Find a Legal Representative Near Me
Losing your commercial driving license in California affects almost every aspect of your life including your job. Vista DUI Attorney Law Firm has attorneys who are willing to represent you in DMV hearings and court proceedings to possibly avoid a commercial driver’s license suspension. You can call our Vista DUI Lawyer at 760-691-1540 if you need our services in Vista, California or the greater North County.