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Commercial Drivers and the Adverse Consequences of a DUI or Physical Control Arrest or Conviction

While the consequences of any DUI or physical control arrest and/or conviction are significant, consequences can be particularly adverse for persons who hold a commercial driver’s license, or who intend on becoming a licensed commercial driver.

CDL disqualification: DUI or physical control conviction. Many CDL holders are entirely unaware that a DUI or Physical Control in their personal vehicle can have a very serious consequence on their livelihood. If a commercial driver is convicted of DUI or physical control, EVEN WHEN THE INCIDENT OCCURRED IN A NON-COMMERCIAL VEHICLE, he or she will be disqualified from driving a commercial vehicle, for one year for a first offense—but for a LIFETIME for a second offense.

CDL disqualification: DUI or physical control arrest resulting in administrative suspension or revocation. A mere arrest for a DUI or physical control (even in a non-commercial vehicle) can result in an administrative license suspension or revocation, which in turn, disqualifies the CDL.

For persons age 21 and over, arrested for DUI or physical control involving:

  • a NON-COMMERCIAL VEHICLE, a breath or blood test result of 0.08 or higher, or a refusal of the test will result in an administrative license suspension or revocation, which then triggers CDL disqualification.

  • a COMMERCIAL VEHICLE, a breath or blood test result of 0.04 or higher, or refusal of the test will result in an administrative disqualification of a CDL.

The CDL disqualification is for one year for a first incident, and a lifetime for a subsequent incident.

Avoiding the consequences. In order to avoid the severe consequences of disqualification, you need to win the administrative hearing AND not be convicted of a DUI or physical control. To get that outcome will take some very skillful lawyering by a very knowledgeable DUI lawyer--one who understands the challenges that might defeat the case against you in court and DOL.

A deferred prosecution program will not save the CDL holder from disqualification. Federal commercial driver licensing “anti-masking" legislation prohibits a state from “masking" convictions on the driving record. Thus, the definition of a “conviction" now includes the payment of any fines or even court “costs." Washington has three programs that in the past, effectively masked convictions to a driver record: deferred prosecution, deferred finding, and deferred sentence. The laws have been changed to prevent masking from occurring in these circumstances. To prevent masking in a deferred prosecution, the law now provides that a deferred prosecution granted on a DUI or physical control charge, which occurred in a non-commercial vehicle, will prevent an administrative license suspension or revocation of the regular driver's license. However, if the person has a commercial driver license, DOL must disqualify the commercial driver license privilege. If the person does not have a commercial driver’s license, DOL will deny issuance of a commercial driver license during the required period.

This legal guide is not intended to teach anyone the law, nor is it a substitute for the advice of a lawyer in possession of full disclosure of the facts relevant to an individual’s particular situation. This legal guide does not create an attorney-client relationship between the writer and any reader.

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