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Commercial Vehicle DUI

Vehicle Code 23152(d) - Commercial Vehicle DUI in California

In California, specific provisions in the law deal with any person who possesses a commercial driver's license and is convicted of driving under the influence.

If you are a truck driver requiring a commercial driver's license for your job and are charged with DUI, there are several issues to consider.

With exceptions, driving vehicles weighing more than 26,000 pounds, carrying over 15 people, or designed for hazardous materials will require a commercial driver's license (CDL).

Commercial Vehicle DUI in California – Vehicle Code 23152(d)

California Vehicle Code 23152(a) VC prohibits driving a vehicle under the influence of alcohol or drugs. Vehicle Code 23152(b) prohibits having a blood-alcohol level of 0.08 percent or higher when driving.  

California Vehicle Code 23152(d) VC prohibits anyone with a commercial license from driving a commercial vehicle with a blood alcohol concentration of 0.04 percent or higher.

A commercial driver’s license allows the operation of different classes of vehicles.  For example, a Class A and Class B driver's licenses will enable the operation of commercial vehicles, and Class C covers hazardous material.

Commercial vehicle drivers face two hazards under DUI laws, such as California's DUI laws lowering the legal blood alcohol limit and the impact a DUI conviction will have on their license. In other words, commercial vehicle drivers have to follow stricter rules.

To convict someone under VC 23152(d) commercial driving under the influence, prosecutors have to prove the same factors as a traditional DUI, such as the results of a breath or blood test, field sobriety tests, and testimony from the police. Our California criminal defense lawyers will look closely at this topic below.

What Are the Lower DUI Blood Alcohol Limits?

In California, the ordinary DUI statute is Vehicle Code 23152 VC, which requires intoxication as an element of the crime but presumes intoxication if the driver's BAC is at least .08 percent.

Lower DUI Blood Alcohol Limits for a California Commercial DUI

However, as noted, Vehicle Code 23152(d) lowers that .08 minimum to just .04 percent for anyone driving a commercial vehicle. The statute says:

  • “It's illegal for someone who has 0.04 percent or more, by weight, of alcohol in his or her blood to drive a commercial motor vehicle, as defined in Section 15210.”

Vehicle Code 23152(f) covers driving under the influence of drugs, which also applies to any commercial vehicle driver. Readers should note that at .04 BAC, there may be no signs of intoxication.

However, they nonetheless presume intoxication from the measured .04-or-greater BAC level. Often, the prosecution has no other evidence than the low level of intoxication to prove a commercial DUI.

Vehicle Code 23152(d) allows prosecutors to use a blood alcohol measure determined within three hours after driving to prove the illegal .04 percent BAC. It says:

  • “In prosecution, it's a rebuttable presumption someone had 0.04 percent or more, by weight, of alcohol in their blood when driving the vehicle if they had 0.04 percent of alcohol in their blood at the time of the performance of a chemical test within three hours after the driving.”

How Can a DUI Impact a Commercial Driver's License?

The state of California follows federal regulations for suspending CDL licenses for a DUI conviction, which includes one year either for operating a commercial vehicle with a BAC of .04 or greater or operating a non-commercial personal vehicle at .08 or higher blood alcohol. The suspension includes a commercial or non-commercial vehicle.

If you refuse a sobriety test, there is a one-year CDL suspension, and drivers of hazardous material will face a three-year driver's license suspension.

Under 49 CFR 383.51 and California law, a second DUI conviction will carry the permanent loss of the CDL. In most cases, a commercial driver who loses their CDL will also lose their job as employers can't allow drivers with a suspended or revoked CDL to operate a commercial motor vehicle.

Federal regulations require commercial drivers to report a DUI to their employer.

What Are the Penalties for Commercial Vehicle DUI?

The penalties for a California commercial vehicle DUI are the same as for a traditional DUI, except that Vehicle Code 15300 extends the driver's license suspension from six months to one year.

Vehicle Code 23538 punishes a first DUI offense with up to six months in jail, a fine between $390 and $1,000, probation for up to five years, and education programs. Thus, the standard punishments for a commercial DUI conviction in California could include:

  • A one-year suspension of the commercial driver's license;
  • A suspension from driving any non-commercial vehicles;
  • Jail time, probation, fines, community service;
  • Installation of an ignition interlock device;
  • Alcohol education classes;
  • Increased insurance rates;
  • Possible loss of employment.

Commercial drivers aren't eligible for a restricted commercial license, and a second conviction could result in a permanent loss of license.

What Are the Best Legal Defenses?

Commercial vehicle drivers usually have the same legal defenses to a DUI charge as any other driver of a non-commercial vehicle, such as:

  • Lack of probable cause to conduct a traffic stop;
  • Defendant was not driving the commercial vehicle;
  • Defendant was not intoxicated or beyond the legal limit;
  • Defendant may have had a rising BAC level when tested;
  • Improper testing procedures at the lab under Title 17.

Commercial drivers are held to a higher standard, and a conviction usually includes harsh consequences.

Best Legal Defenses for a California Commercial DUI

Thus, a commercial driver might want to consider a plea agreement, such as a wet or dry reckless.

You will need experienced legal representation to have the best chance at a favorable outcome.

First, we need to review any strengths and weaknesses in the case to develop an effective defense strategy.

Through prefiling negotiations, we might be able to convince the prosecutor not to file formal charges before the first court date (DA reject).

Cron, Israels & Stark is located in Los Angeles County, California. Our law firm offers a free case consultation via phone or use the contact form.

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