Commercial Driver License DUI in California

January 29, 2016

Commercial DUIPlease click on the links below to go directly to your topic of interest:

California Law for DUI with the commercial driver’s license.

The DMV can suspend a commercial driver’s license.  A commercial driver’s license suspension can happen if you had a blood alcohol concentration of .04% or higher while driving a commercial vehicle (Cal VC 23152(d)).  In addition to a DMV commercial driver’s license suspension, a driver can be prosecuted for a DUI in criminal court.  If that driver drove a non-commercial vehicle while being DUI, he will also suffer a commercial driver’s license suspension if his blood-alcohol level was .08 percent or more.  The penalty for a commercial driver is a lot more severe not only because the permissible alcohol levels are half the “usual” legal limits but also because the commercial driver’s license suspensions are much longer without the possibility of a restricted license (Cal VC 13352.4).  A driver with a commercial driver’s license will suffer a commercial driver’s license suspension for one year after a first DUI offense (Cal VC 15300) and his entire life after a second DUI offense (Cal VC 15302).

It appears that the DMV is not counting convictions that occurred prior to the 2005 amendment to the statute towards the lifetime bar.  Thus, a driver who got 1 conviction prior to September 20, 2005, and another conviction after September 20, 2005, will not be barred for life but only for 1 year.

Anecdotally, some clients have reported to Los Angeles DUI Attorney that the DMV suspended their license for life based on a DUI that took place before 2005.  If this happened to you, call Los Angeles DUI Attorney right away (you may have only 15 to 30 days to do so) to help you get a reversal of the DMV order.  The language that helps fight lifetime revocation that is based on DUIs before September 20, 2005, is found in Assembly BIll No. 3049 (AB3049).  Here is a cite from Lexis:

SECTION 1. (a) In conformance with the amendments to Parts 350, 383, 384, and 390 of Title 49 of the Code of Federal Regulations, as authorized by the Motor Carrier Safety Improvement Act of 1999 (P.L. 106-159), the Legislature finds and declares the following:
(1) Holders of commercial driver’s licenses are professional drivers. They operate large, heavy motor vehicles, and often transport hazardous materials or vulnerable passengers. Given their status as professionals, drivers should be held to higher standards of conduct when operating a motor vehicle of any class.
(2) A change in Parts 350, 383, 384, and 390 of Title 49 of the Code of Federal Regulations, that may be authorized by an amendment to the Motor Carrier Safety Improvement Act of 1999 (P.L. 106-159), that will impact the disqualification criteria for any holder of a commercial driver’s licenseholder, shall be incorporated into California law as soon as practicable following the adoption of that federal regulation.
(b) Any cause for disqualification of the commercial driving privilege enacted under the authority of the Motor Carrier Safety Improvement Act of 1999 (P.L. 106-159), may only be applied to violations that occur on or after September 20, 2005.

If you have a commercial driver’s license suspension, you can get a non-commercial driver’s license and qualify for restricted driving.  Los Angeles DUI Attorney will help you obtain a restricted license or fight your commercial driver’s license suspension in court and in the DMV.

Penalties for commercial DUI in California

If you were arrested with a BAC of 0.04% or higher while operating a commercial vehicle can expect the following:

First DUI with CDL Second DUI with CDL
JAIL TIME  No jail time to 6 month 4 days to 364 days
FINES $390 to $1,000 $390 to $1,000
ALCOHOL EDUCATION PROGRAM 3 month to 9 month 18 month
COMMERCIAL DRIVERS LICENSE SUSPENSION OR REVOCATION 1 year lifetime revocation

The consequences for such “non-commercial” DUI are very severe for any commercial driver’s license.  When a commercial driver gets a DUI, he will lose his commercial driver’s license.  With a commercial DUI, a non-commercial driver’s license will be downgraded to “Class “C”.

A first-time commercial DUI offender will lose his commercial driver’s license for 1 year.

But even after waiting one year and getting a commercial driver’s license back, the commercial driver will still continue to have major problems trying to work as a commercial driver.  For example, a driver who has a commercial driver’s license and maintains Federal Department of Transportation qualifications (DOT), has a federal CSA score.  CSA score is a rating maintained by Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration.  CSA stands for “compliance, safety, accountability” and a higher score will create serious problems for the driver and might cause loss of employment.

Moreover, a commercial driver has to be accepted by the liability insurance company and many insurance companies will not accept a driver for at least 5 years after a drunk driving conviction.  Even if some insurance companies will be willing to accept a commercial driver convicted of a DUI, the insurance company will require a much higher premium, and the driver (or his employer) might not be able to afford the insurance.  Thus, even a first-time DUI will have very bad consequences for a commercial DUI driver.

How To Beat A Commercial Vehicle DUI (CDL) Case?

There are no “Commercial driver’s license suspension” defenses specific to a “commercial” driver.  All defenses used to defend a regular DUI can be successfully used to defend a “commercial” driver’s license.  There are at least 15 different defenses that can be used to defend a DUI.  Examples include violation of Title 17 of the California Code of Regulation, various medical conditions including GERD and diabetes, illegal stop, illegal arrest, falsely high blood alcohol readings, and a rising BAC defense.

One clever way to reverse a loss of commercial driver’s license is to settle his case for a  “Helmandollar plea”, which allows a reversal of the DMV findings with a dismissal of CVC 23152(a), a plea to a wet reckless pursuant to California Vehicle Code 23103 pursuant to California Vehicle Code 23103.5, and a stipulated finding of acquittal under California Vehicle Code 23152(b).

Can you still get a CDL license after two DUI convictions in California?

A commercial driver who has 2 drunk driving convictions will have to suffer a lifetime bar from operating a commercial vehicle.  This lifetime revocation of the commercial driver’s license does not depend on whether the driver was driving a commercial vehicle at the time of the DUI.  Even if the commercial DUI was received when the driver was driving a regular vehicle, he will suffer a lifetime loss of his commercial driver’s license.

California Vehicle Code section 15302 explains:

15302. A driver shall not operate a commercial motor vehicle for the rest of his or her life if convicted of more than one violation of any of the following:   (a) Subdivision (a), (b), or (c) of Section 23152 while operating a motor vehicle.   (b) Subdivision (d) of Section 23152.   (c) Subdivision (a) or (b) of Section 23153 while operating a motor vehicle.   (d) Subdivision (d) of Section 23153.   (e) Leaving the scene of an accident involving a motor vehicle operated by the driver.   (f) Using a motor vehicle to commit a felony, other than a felony described in Section 15304.   (g) Driving a commercial motor vehicle when the driver’s commercial driver’s license is revoked, suspended, or canceled based on the driver’s operation of a commercial motor vehicle or when the driver is disqualified from operating a commercial motor vehicle based on the driver’s operation of a commercial motor vehicle.   (h) Causing a fatality involving conduct defined pursuant to Section 191.5 of the Penal Code or in subdivision (c) of Section 192 of the Penal Code.   (i) While operating a motor vehicle, refuses to submit to, or fails to complete, a chemical test or tests in violation of Section 23612.   (j) A violation of Section 2800.1, 2800.2, or 2800.3 that involves a commercial motor vehicle.   (k) Any combination of the above violations or a violation listed in paragraph (2) of subdivision (a) of Section 13350 or Section 13352 or 13357 that occurred while transporting a hazardous material.

In other words, a commercial driver who has violated any of these laws two times will face lifetime commercial driver’s license revocation.

But you do not need to be convicted in court to have a lifetime bar!  An APS finding will be equivalent to a conviction according to the 2011 decision of the court of Appeals in Ziehlke v. Valverde.  This means that after 2011 any 2 APS findings will cause a lifetime bar for a commercial driver license holder.

If you are a commercial driver, it is very important to take any vehicle code violations very seriously.  Even if you are cited for an infraction offense, you need the help of a Los Angeles traffic lawyer to fight your case.  If you are cited for any DUI, you must call Los Angeles DUI lawyer as soon as you can so that we can fight your case and make sure you put up a great fight and did all you can to win your case.

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(818) 921 7744  CALL anytime to talk directly to Los Angeles DUI Lawyer.

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32 responses to “Commercial Driver License DUI in California”

  1. Michael Marino says:

    My question deals with the text of vc 15302, 23152, and 23103 which no one (DMV included) has no clear answer for. Vc15302 text makes no mention of vc 23103. If someone was convicted of a first 23152 then convicted of a 2nd charge vc23103 can he get his CDL back since the keywords in the text of 15302 are convicted, 23152 and 23153.

    • admin says:

      Sometimes they can; however, the DMV often takes a position that if you have two DMV suspensions, it is equivalent to “convictions” and therefore you can not get your license back. Your question does not mention DMV hearing; but if your license is not suspended after a DMV hearing, you license will not be suspended after a VC 23103 conviction.

  2. Brian says:

    Does it matter if the 2 DUIs were not in a commercial vehicle?

  3. Brian says:

    I didn’t have a commercial license when I got the DUIs but I would maybe like to get one in the future to haul hay, cattle, and equipment for my ranch.

    • It does not matter if you did not have a commercial license at the time of DUI (as a matter of fact, an APS DMV suspension will count as a conviction and will prevent you from getting a commercial driver’s license)

  4. Katrina says:

    My husband has been considering trying to become a truck driver. He was in a dark place a few years ago and ended up with 4-5 duis in a 2-3 year span. His restriction/suspension was just lifted last year and just stopped needing an sr 22 last month. He has been cited for driving with no license and suspended license in the last couple years so with all that said does he have any chance of getting a cdl???

    • Katrina,

      It is very unfortunate that your husband has multiple DUI cases. If your husband has 2 or more DUI cases after September 20, 2005, he will be ineligible to obtain a California CDL. For reference please see California Vehicle Code section 15302 which revokes commercial driver’s licenses for the rest of the driver’s life upon 2 or more convictions (or APS actions). I am sorry to say but I don’t think your husband has any chance of getting a commercial CDL with his record.

  5. Mark Blasey says:

    I got a dui in 06 and one in 08.
    Both have since ben dismissed.
    I had a cdl at the time
    Since it has ben more than 10 years i would like to reinstate my cdl.
    Can you help?

    • You should apply and see what DMV decided to do. They do change their interpretation of the law fairly often. Having said that, any DUI after 2005 should be counted towards a lifetime bar on CDL

  6. Jose Luis Duran says:

    What if u have 2 duis. And one was for marijuana. And the other was for alcohol.

    • Hello Jose,

      I assume you are asking about a lifetime bar. If you plead to 23152(f) (most commonly charged marijuana DUI) you should be ok. He is the language of CVC 15302:

      A driver shall not operate a commercial motor vehicle for the rest of his or her life if convicted of more than one violation of any of the following:

      (a) Subdivision (a), (b), or (c) of Section 23152 while operating a motor vehicle.

      So, if you plead to CVC 23152(a) – you are barred – but if you plead to CVC 23152(f), you should not be.

  7. Benjamin says:

    What if one or both of the DUIs were before 9/20/2005? Want to get a Class B CDL for bus driving in California.

  8. John says:

    What if 1 out of the 2 DUI’s was in another state. Will the lifetime bar apply?

  9. Tasha Cortez says:

    My husband got a dui with a cdl when he was 20…he is now 34 and he just got a dui with a cdl in a non commercial vehicle. Will he still be barred for life or can he fight it?

    • He would lose his license if he pleads to a DUI or loses the APS hearing.
      He would need to either get a “wet reckless” and a “set aside” from the DMV or negotiate a “Helmandollar” plea with the prosecutor

  10. Sam says:

    if i have 2 DUI convictions but they are 14 years apart does that mean that my Class A license will be disqualified for life? My first conviction was after 9-20-05. It was in 2006. Does the DUI on my driving record go away after 10 years which would make this my first DUI offense as far as the DMV is concerned and therefore my license should not be disqualified?

    • Unfortunately Sam, it does not. Two DUI convictions, even if more than 10 years apart can disqualify you for life. Moreover, even if you “win” your case in court, the DMV can disqualify you for life based on an APS action alone (see a 2011 case called Zeikie v. Valverde). To keep your CDL you need to get a “set aside” in the DMV and a “wet reckless” in court or a “Helmandollar plea” in court.

  11. Matthew says:

    Underage dui in 2017, convicted in 2018 along with a refusal, without a cdl. Now a cdl holder, would a second dui In personal vehicle holding a cdl trigger a lifetime bar? Or would the cdl be suspended for a year?

    • Good Morning Mattew,

      Underage DUI (23136 or 23140) will not trigger a DMV lifetime bar. However, if properly reported, a refusal will (under California Vehicle Code section 15302(i)). So, if it’s a California VC 23136/23140 conviction, with a refusal (I have never seen it charged because it seems meaningless to charge a refusal to an infraction), the CDL suspension should be – lifetime. In short, the fact pattern presented should result in a lifetime bar. But even if it does not, under Ziehlke v. Valverde case (a 2011 Court of Appeals DMV case), 2 DMV APS findings (even without a conviction) will result in a lifetime bar.

  12. Chris A says:

    If I had a wet reckless conviction in 2013 and a dui conviction in 2017 do I still get a lifetime bar from a commercial license. Both were misdemeanor level.

    • You do not Chris, a wet reckless has no effect on the driver’s license. However, a DMV action (suspension) based on a DUI arrest (such as a determination that you were above the legal limit) can have the same effect as a conviction. In other words, the 2 DUI arrests that you have can bar you for life if the DMV had hearings and you lost both of them.

  13. Rolando says:

    Got dui in 2007 and recently in 2019 can I apply for class a

  14. Brandon says:

    I got a DUI when I was 20 in 2006 and again in 2009. I’m 35 now. I’m wanting to get my CDL. Will I be able to? If not, is there anyway I can fight it with a lawyer?

    • If the convictions were properly reported to the DMV, no, you can not get CDL. The only way to fight is to vacate a conviction due to a defect in the plea (if one existed at the time).

  15. Jonathan says:

    I have got a wet and reckless and then a dui in 2015 could I still get my CDL??

    • See comment above (copying and pasting):

      “2 things here Jonny,

      1st, a wet does not count towards the lifetime bar for CLD issuance. So if the DMV took no action when you got your wet, you are good to get CDL. The problem usually is that at the same time as a person is arrested for a DUI, the DMV is notified and has a separate administrative hearing. If you lost the APS hearing then the DMV might count it towards the lifetime bar as if you had a DUI. So if you lost APS at the time of your Wet and had a DUI, then you cannot get CLD but if you won a DMV hearing at the time of your Wet and got a DUI then you can get a CLD.

      2nd, It depends on when in 2015. If your Wet and DUI were before September of 2015, then ignore part 1 above and you can get a CDL because there were no lifetime bar.”

  16. Johnny says:

    I have got a wet and reckless and then a dui back in 2015 could I still get my CDL

    • 2 things here Jonny,

      1st, a wet does not count towards the lifetime bar for CLD issuance. So if the DMV took no action when you got your wet, you are good to get CDL. The problem usually is that at the same time as a person is arrested for a DUI, the DMV is notified and has a separate administrative hearing. If you lost the APS hearing then the DMV might count it towards the lifetime bar as if you had a DUI. So if you lost APS at the time of your Wet and had a DUI, then you cannot get CLD but if you won a DMV hearing at the time of your Wet and got a DUI then you can get a CLD.

      2nd, It depends on when in 2015. If your Wet and DUI were before September of 2015, then ignore part 1 above and you can get a CDL because there were no lifetime bar.

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