Every time a commercial driver is arrested for a DUI, their livelihood is also at stake. Both the federal and state governments are strict on enforcing road safety, especially where commercial drivers are involved.
A conviction for a DWI or related offense could lead to the loss of your commercial driving license even if you were driving a non-commercial vehicle at the time of the DWI offense.
Fighting your DWI charge can help you avoid these consequences, depending on the outcome of your case. Fort Worth DWI Defense Lawyer helps Texas commercial drivers defend themselves against DWI charges and related offenses and helps them recover their license upon a suspension.
DWI Laws in Texas
Texas consistently leads as the state with the highest statistics for drunk driving and related traffic accidents. These statistics have led to stiffer DWI laws, particularly for truck drivers responsible for a significant portion of road fatalities on Texan roads.
The BAC limit for Texas drivers is .08% similar to that of other states in the country. These limits apply to all drivers regardless of the type of license you hold. In addition, commercial drivers should not drive a commercial vehicle with a BAC of .04% or higher.
Exceeding the legal limits can jeopardize your career even if you committed the violation when driving a non-commercial vehicle.
The criminal penalties for a DWI are similar whether you were driving a commercial or non-commercial car. However, holders of a commercial driver’s license will have their commercial driver’s license suspended for at least a year for the first offense. The license suspension period could last three years if you were transporting hazardous material at the time of the offense.
Commercial drivers will lose their commercial driver's license for life if they are convicted for a second DWI offense. In addition, you will face criminal penalties for the DWI or related offense.
Fighting DWI or related charges as a commercial driver presents unique circumstances since you must also fight for your income source.
The amendment and adoption of new laws to meet the federal government's requirements have seen laws become tougher for commercial drivers. For example, a deferred sentence will still count as a conviction for the purpose of your CDL as will a guilty or no contest plea.
Additional regulations by the FMCSA include:
- License disqualifications and fines for CDL holders who violate out-of-service order
- Suspension and disqualification of your commercial license for a minimum of 60 days for these offenses:
- violating railroad crossings
- Excessive speeding
- Reckless driving
- Leaving the scene of an accident when DWI
The FMCSA also requires commercial drivers to report any traffic conviction to their employers within 30 days. The reporting period is even shorter in Texas since you must report to your employer and the Texas Department of Public Safety within seven days of your conviction.
Common Reasons for CDL license suspension
Drunk driving is the leading cause of an administrative license suspension. You can lose your license for a year or life, depending on the circumstances of the underlying offense and your criminal history.
You could lose your commercial driver’s license for life is you have separate convictions for at least two of the following offenses:
- Having any DWI
- Leaving the scene of an accident you were involved in
- Using a motor vehicle to commit a felony
- Driving a commercial vehicle with a suspended or revoked license
- Driving any motor vehicle while under the influence of alcohol or another intoxicating substance
- Causing the death of another person due to criminal or negligent operation of a vehicle
A combination of at least two of the following acts could also trigger a lifetime CDL disqualification:
- Convictions for any of the offenses above
- Refusal to submit an ACL (alcohol concentration level) testing
- Submitting a sample with an ACL of .04% or higher while operating a commercial vehicle
- Submitting a sample with an ACL of .08% or higher during the operation of any motor vehicle
The Texas department of public safety will suspend your commercial license for periods as follows:
- One year for driving a with a BAC of at least .04% or .08% for a commercial vehicle and a non-commercial vehicle respectively
- One year for refusing to submit a chemical test
- One year for driving or operating a motor vehicle under the influence of alcohol or another intoxicating substance
- Three years for driving a commercial vehicle that transports hazardous materials while under the influence or while intoxicated
- A lifetime suspension for a second DWI conviction
- 60 days for a second conviction of a serious traffic violation while operating a CMV within three years
- Suspension for 120 days for a third conviction for a serious traffic violation while operating a CMV within three years
Some of the serious offenses that could lead to suspension of your CDL (while operating a commercial motor vehicle) include:
- Driving at more than 15 miles per hour above the recommended speed limit
- Erratic lane changes
- Following too closely
- Reckless driving
- Driving without a CDL or the right endorsements
- Failure to obtain a CDL after living in Texas for at least 30 days
- Failure to display driver’s license
- Expired CDL
- Unlawful possession of a commercial driver’s license
You must notify your employer within that business day if the DPS disqualifies your commercial license.
Under the Texas Hold’em initiative, you will face federal penalties, fines, imprisonment, and disqualification of commercial driver’s privileges permanently for knowingly smuggling an alien.
A DWI arrest is the first point of contact between a commercial driver and the police. An officer will pull you over is he or she has reasonable suspicion that you are committing a traffic offense. For example, if you are weaving between lanes.
The officer will subject you to field sobriety tests upon suspicions of impairment and will arrest you if the circumstances suggest that you could be impaired.
The Texas transportation code 522.102 states that by driving a commercial driver, the driver is implying his or her consent to submit a BAC test when stopped or arrested for a suspected DWI offense.
While this rule applies, the arresting officer must have probable cause to request a BAC test. For example, if the officer smells alcohol on you, then he or she has probable cause to request a BAC sample.
The officer will read your rights and the consequences of failing to submit a blood or breath sample.
You will keep your license until the department of public safety receives your test results if you agree to submit an ACL test sample. If you have a BAC above the legal limit, then the following will happen:
- You will receive a notice of suspension.
- You have to request a hearing within 20 days from the day the notice was mailed.
- The suspension on your license will be active on the 40th day after receiving the note (the date the DPS assumes you have received the notice of suspension). The DPS will schedule a hearing within 30 to 60 days.
Failing to submit a test sample will lead to the suspension of your commercial driver’s license as an administrative penalty. The officer will take your commercial driver’s license and substitute it with a notice of suspension.
You will suffer an immediate 24-hour suspension of your CDL (Texas Transportation code 522.101), and you could later lose your commercial driving privileges for at least a year, according to section 522.081(b) (3) of the Texas transportation code.
A 24-hour license suspension is an out-of-service order (OSO) and can lead to additional penalties as follows if you violate the OSO order:
- License suspension for between 180 days and two years for a hazmat CMV of a 15-passenger vehicle, and a $2500 fine for a first offense
- The second offense attracts a license suspension of two to five years and a fine of at least $5,000
- For the third offense within ten years, you will be subjected to a license disqualification for between three to five years and a fine of at least $5,000
Not all is lost; you can request an administrative license hearing within 15 days of receiving the notice of your CDL suspension according to Texas Transportation code section 724.041. In most DWI cases, you will receive the notice of suspension after your arrest, and the arresting officer will confiscate your commercial driver's license.
Failure to request a hearing within 15 days will result in the suspension of your commercial driver's license 40 days after your arrest.
Administrative License Revocation Hearing
You have fifteen days from the day of your arrest to schedule an administrative license revocation hearing. The hearing is an administrative one where the administrative judge determines whether to suspend your license.
The department of Public Safety is responsible for the suspension of driver's licenses of drivers arrested for DWI offenses. Such suspension does not serve as a criminal punishment but as an administrative penalty for failing to adhere to safe driving practices as set by law.
During the hearing, you will have to prove that:
- The arresting officer had reasonable suspicion to stop your car.
- You were driving while intoxicated.
- The arresting officer warned you of the consequences of failing to submit a sample for ACL testing.
- You refused to submit a sample upon request by an officer or failed the test by registering an ACL of more than .08% if you were driving an ordinary vehicle or .04% if you were driving a commercial vehicle.
Working with an attorney during an administrative hearing increases the chances of better representation. Attorneys keep up with the changes in commercial driving and DWI laws and have the expertise and experience in dealing with similar hearings.
Your attorney will present defenses such as:
- The officer did not have reasonable suspicion to pull you over. You were probably a victim of profiling based on certain characteristics such as race or originality. Your attorney will cross-examine the arresting officer to establish the criteria he or she used to determine that you were possibly violating traffic rules.
- The officer did not have probable cause for requesting a breath sample or arresting you.
- The officer failed to warn you of the consequences of failing to submit a test sample.
On the other hand, the DPS will express why your license should be suspended through a preponderance of the evidence. A preponderance of the evidence is a lower standard of proof compared to that of criminal courts.
The judge will evaluate the evidence from both sides before giving his or her decision. If you win the hearing, your license will be restored. However, the DPS will suspend your CDL if you lose the case.
You can appeal an adverse ruling within thirty days of the decision by mailing a stamped and certified appeal petition to the DPS. You could also take the petition to the director of hearings in person.
Approval of your appeal will result in removing your suspension for 90 days until the DPS gives its final decision.
A suspension of your commercial driver’s license also affects your driving for a non-commercial motor vehicle and vice versa. Whether you have a commercial or non-commercial driver’s license, the DPS will treat your driving record as one. Therefore, a DWI with a non-commercial vehicle will also affect your CDL driver’s license.
You can apply for a restricted occupational license during the suspension period to allow you to go to work, school, and court-ordered programs. The restricted occupational license is applicable for non-commercial motor vehicles only. The DPS does not issue a restricted license for more than two years, and a license is valid only for a year.
You can request a restricted occupational license by filing a petition in the court where you received the suspension. You must also obtain a court order, which will act as a temporary (30 days) restricted license.
You will then present the DPS with your petition or court order, an SR-22 certificate, reinstatement fees, an occupational license fee of $10, and any suspension documents.
The DPS will process your occupational license immediately. However, if you have a court-ordered mandatory license suspension period, you will get your occupational license after:
- 90 days for suspension due to a drug or alcohol-related offense
- 180 days for a DWI conviction
- One year if you have at least two administrative license revocations
While administrative hearings are not linked to criminal proceedings, your DWI defense attorney will use the hearing to gather additional evidence for the case. Your attorney will call the arresting and booking officer and cross-examine them during the hearing. The testimony they provide, including admissions of mistakes, will help your defense later.
Getting A CDL after a DWI
Commercial drivers transport 16 or more passengers and have a gross weight of 26,000 pounds or transport large quantities of hazardous materials. These drivers can be engaged in either interstate or intrastate commerce.
Due to the sensitivity of driving a commercial vehicle, federal and local governments have strict regulations before they can issue commercial driver's licenses, especially drivers who have a prior conviction for a DWI.
Good driving history is one of the factors influencing your qualification for a commercial driver’s license. The department of public safety will check your driving history for the last ten years before approving your request to have a commercial driver’s license.
The requirement to check your ten-year driving history arose due to an amendment by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration that requires all states to have uniform laws for commercial drivers.
Your driving history also matters if you intend to apply for a commercial driver’s license for the first time. Any disqualifying offenses will result in a delay or denial of your request to obtain a CDL.
You will also have to complete the educational requirements, skill and knowledge tests, and a medical exam to check your health. Some of the requirements include:
- You must have a valid Texas driver's license.
- You must complete the application in person at a driver license office near you.
- You must have documents to verify your identity and Texas residency.
- You must have a social security number and present evidence of having one.
- You must satisfy the medical requirements.
- You must show proof of liability insurance for any vehicles registered in your name.
- You must complete the Record of CDL examination and supplement application Texas commercial driver license certification.
- You must give your consent to provide your fingerprints, photograph, and signature.
- You should pass a vision test (vision aids are accepted)
- Pay the required fees
- You must also present a commercial vehicle (representing the type of license you are applying for)
Some of the physical requirements include:
- 20/40 vision for each eye and both eyes as well
- You can distinguish colors
- You are of good hearing (can perceive a forced whisper five feet away)
- A maximum blood pressure of 160/100 (you could use prescription medication to manage your blood pressure)
- If you have diabetes, it should be controlled through medication and diet but not through insulin injection
- Blood sugar that does not exceed 200
- You do not use any schedule 1 drugs
Reinstating Your CDL
You can reinstate your commercial driver's license once the suspension period ends. You must follow the reinstatement requirements stipulated by the department of public safety. These requirements differ based on the reason for your license suspension.
You will begin the process by paying the required reinstatement fees on the DPS website. You can complete the repayment process online through Visa, MasterCard, American Express, and Discover credit cards.
Once you pay the reinstatement fee, you will receive information on the documents you need to submit. You can send the required documents through mail or as PDF files via email.
The DPS could take up to 14 days to process the reinstatement fees and the documents you send.
The above process for reinstating a CDL applies for a temporary suspension. For lifetime CDL reinstatement, you will have to wait at least ten years before you can get a license. In addition, you have to enter and complete a state-approved rehabilitation program voluntarily.
You are eligible to reinstate your license after ten years if you were convicted for one or more offenses for:
- Being under the influence of alcohol or a controlled substance
- Operating a commercial motor vehicle with a BAC of or greater than .04%
- Refusing to take a chemical test in violation of Texas implied consent laws for commercial drivers.
- Leaving the scene of an accident
- Using a commercial vehicle in the commission of a felony (except those involving controlled substances)
A CDL suspended for life cannot be reinstated after ten years if you used the CMV in committing a felony that involves the manufacture or distribution of a controlled substance. If the DPS reinstates your license after a lifetime disqualification, and you are convicted for another major offense, you will never qualify for a CDL reinstatement.
If you qualify for reinstatement after lifetime discontinuation, you must appeal to the DPS for a reinstatement. The DPS will require you to do the following:
- Pay any reinstatement fees.
- Meet the reinstatement requirements
- Pass the skills, knowledge and vision tests required when obtaining a commercial driver’s license
- Complete any course requirements
Find a CDL Defense Attorney Near Me
Commercial drivers depend on their licenses to earn a livelihood. They must adhere to strict federal and state regulations, which often subject them to license revocations, disqualifications, and suspensions.
Commercial drivers also have few chances of making mistakes, especially for suspension related to DWI and other serious traffic offenses. A major concern is the loss of your license for a lifetime. While you might qualify for reinstatement after ten years, the suspension probably marks your commercial driving career.
Fort Worth DWI Defense Lawyer helps commercial drivers who are experiencing problems with their license due to a DWI or DUI offense. We advise and help you with any legal matters, such as requesting and attending administrative hearings and reinstating your license.
We care about your commercial driving career; contact us at 817-470-2128 for a consultation.