In the past we have written about the penalties and suspensions imposed on standard driver’s license holders caused by a DUI conviction, entrance into the ARD program and refusals to submit to blood tests to determine blood alcohol content. This post will address the impact of those events on a Commercial Driver’s License ("CDL").
In Pennsylvania, a CDL is required for a driver to operate a commercial motor vehicle. Such vehicles typically include most buses, big-rig trucks and HAZMAT vehicles. There are several classes of CDLs that vary depending on the specific type of commercial vehicle that is going to be driven.
In order to comply with federal mandates intended to enhance highway safety, Pennsylvania began enforcing the Motor Carrier Safety Improvement Act ("MCSIA"), effective September 30, 2005. The MCSIA significantly bolstered the DUI related punishments imposed on CDL holders whether the offenses occurred while driving a commercial or personal vehicle. Such penalties, in addition to the normal criminal punishments discussed in prior blog posts, include the following:
· A conviction on a DUI charge where the violation occurred on or after September 30, 2005, will result in a one year suspension of the driver’s CDL (three years for HAZMAT);
· A conviction on a second DUI where both violations occurred on or after September 30, 2005, will result in a lifetime CDL disqualification;
· Entrance into ARD is treated as a conviction on a DUI charge for purposes of determining the CDL suspension; and
· A refusal to submit to chemical testing for the purposes of determining blood alcohol content occurring after September 30, 2005, will result in a one year suspension of the driver’s CDL (three years for HAZMAT); and
· A second refusal to submit to chemical testing where both refusals occurred after September 30, 2005, will result in a lifetime disqualification.
There are a few things to note. First, ARDs and DUI convictions where the violation date occurred prior to September 30, 2005, are not taken into account for purposes of determining the CDL suspension. Thus, if a driver has two prior DUI convictions and both violations occurred before September 30, 2005, there is no lifetime disqualification. Second, while entrance into the ARD program will only likely result in a suspension of a personal driver’s license for ninety or fewer days, the CDL suspension will still last for one year.
While everyone should act responsibly when partaking in alcoholic beverages, the stiff penalties imposed under the MCSIA should give CDL holders even more of a reason to take care. If you are facing a DUI charge it is always advisable to consult with an attorney, the added penalties for those who possess a Commercial Driver’s License make it even more important to have an attorney review your options.