CDL operators have much harsher requirements and suspensions when it comes to DWI.
It comes with severe consequences, a long road to preparing for the court case, and is perhaps a time of intense reflection. These issues are multiplied if you happen to drive for a living.
If you have a commercial license in Louisiana and face drinking and driving charges, you’ve got to take a deep breath and see the playing field for what it is.
The information below will help you do that.
Louisiana law has much harsher license suspension provisions for a CDL than a regular Class E license. Therefore, commercial vehicle operators must be more careful about their driving than regular drivers to ensure they can keep their CDL. The legislature has provided for severe consequences to CDL operators such as:
- Once a CDL is disqualified, there is no hardship license to operate a commercial vehicle like there is for noncommercial vehicles;
- Although the CDL operator may not get convicted of a DWI for blowing under .08 BAC, he could still lose his CDL if he blew at least .04 but below .08 BAC while driving a commercial vehicle.
- CDL drivers can lose their CDL for refusing the breathalyzer even if he was operating a noncommercial vehicle at the time of the DWI arrest.
- If a CDL driver is suspended from operating a Class “D” or “E” vehicle, he will also lose his right to drive commercial vehicles.
Penalties For First Offense
CDL drivers are subject to the Implied Consent laws just like noncommercial drivers. Therefore, if they submit to chemical testing over the limit or refuse chemical testing, their driver’s license could be disqualified and suspended. CDL operators will lose his license for one year for the first offense of the following:
- Submission to a chemical test resulting in at least .08 BAC while driving a noncommercial vehicle.
- Submission to a chemical test resulting in.04 to .08 BAC while driving a commercial vehicle.
- DWI conviction whether or not he was driving a commercial vehicle.
- Use of a motor vehicle in the commission of certain felonies.
- Leaving the scene of an accident (hit and run).
- Refusal to submit to a breathalyzer or drug test.
- Operating a commercial vehicle while on suspension.
- Causing a fatality through the negligent operation of a commercial vehicle such as negligent homicide or vehicle homicide.
1. Learn the Louisiana DWI Laws For Commercial Drivers
You have 30 days from the date of arrest to request an Administrative Hearing to fight the proposed suspension of your CDL license. Do not wait.
In Louisiana, like most other states, the blood alcohol content (BAC) limits are .08 percent. Since you are a commercial driver, the laws are stricter.
Those will a commercial drivers license (CDL) have a .04 percent limit in Louisiana, and will also be subject to tougher punishments.
After getting pulled over in your commercial vehicle, the arresting officer will have you blow into a breathalyzer, and this will give them an up to the moment readout of your blood alcohol content.
Officers will pull you over if you are driving dangerously, or if you happen to pass a DWI checkpoint. You don’t have the right to refuse a test in Louisiana, because as a state, refusal is treated the same as getting charged with a DWI.
If your blood alcohol content is .15 percent or greater, you will be charged more harshly and will have to face tougher penalties.
2. Know the Penalties That You Can Face
You also need to know what punishments you can face if you get convicted of a DWI as a CDL holder.
For one, getting convicted of DWI or refusing to take the test when told can get your license taken for an entire year. You can face even bigger suspensions when you are carrying some sensitive or hazardous materials in your truck.
You can also face jail time if you get convicted of drunk driving in Louisiana. First-time DWI offenders can get hit with upwards of 6 months behind bars, along with a $1,000 fee.
In most cases, you will have your license pulled after getting a DWI charge. You can request a hearing to get a temporary license to use while you await future court dates.
3. Immediately Reach Out to an Attorney
You can’t reach out to a lawyer fast enough when you are charged with DWI. Since you use your commercial license for a living, you need the help of an attorney that helps CDL drivers charged with drunk driving.
Don’t just hire the first lawyer that you find. Instead, ask for consultations with several, until you get an understanding of the strategies they will use to help you out.
It’s important to also consider the expenses for fighting a DWI. When you are fighting a case of this magnitude, you can expect to run up a pretty significant bill.
However, this expense is worth every dime since your career is on the line.
4. Understand How Damaging This Charge Can Be to Your Career
Since your entire career revolves around driving, getting a DWI conviction is just about the worst case scenarios.
Companies need to be able to rely on you to carry merchandise and materials from Point A to Point B safely. Having this conviction on your record will be a serious red flag that might make people look elsewhere when hiring new drivers.
Because this charge is so serious, you need to give it the attention that it deserves. Career ramifications aside, getting a DWI conviction will also cause your insurance rates to blow up. This will make your overhead costs far more expensive, which also cuts into your earning potential.
5. Plan Out a Defense With Your Lawyer
After you feel satisfied with the lawyer you have hired to defend your DWI case, make sure you work with them toward your goals.
Whether your goal is to defend yourself in court or find a plea bargain that allows you to keep your career on track, express these wishes to your lawyer. From there, they will be able to put together the details that will help you succeed.
This might mean pulling lots of evidence and bringing expert witnesses on board. In many situations, your lawyer will likely request several continuances for your case. Scheduling continuances is a strategic move to buy you more time, and will also help you put together the best case possible.
The better you’re able to count on your legal defense, the more likely you are to win your case.
6. Figure Out Your Income in the Interim
If you aren’t able to get a temporary license, it’s important that you find a way to earn income in the interim.
You will need to keep up with your lawyer fees, and don’t want to let your living expenses fall by the wayside. Check with any union your are apart of as well to see if they have resources that can help you out during this difficult time.
7. Do Whatever You Can to Get the Charge Dismissed or Acquitted
Simply put, you need to have a sense of urgency when it comes to reducing the effect of this charge.
The better you can either defend yourself or show remorse for your mistake, the better you can protect your career. Don’t underestimate how powerful a letter to the judge can be.
Many lawyers might advise you to begin undergoing alcohol counseling and conducting community service without being asked. This way, it shows an earnestness to correct your mistakes, which will work heavily in your favor if you are seeking leniency.
However, if you feel that the charge is incorrect and want to fight it every step of the way, you’ll need to have the energy and resources to do that. Take care of yourself and get ready to dig your heels into the ground.
What DWI Means For Your Commercial License
A DWI is a nightmare if you have a commercial license. Because of this, you should do everything possible to fight this charge.
To learn more about defending a commercial DWI, get in touch.