Commercial Vehicle DUI in California – Vehicle Code 23152(d)
There are certain provisions in California state law addressing anyone with a commercial driver's licenses that are convicted of driving under the influence.
If you are a truck driver or other profession that requires a commercial driver's license for your job and you were charged with DUI, there are several issues that have to be considered.
California Vehicle Code 23152(a) VC makes it a crime to drive a vehicle under the influence of alcohol and or drugs. Vehicle Code 23152(b) makes it a crime to drive with a blood-alcohol level of 0.08 percent or greater.
These statutes above apply to all people in California who are driving a vehicle, in spite of what type of license they are holding.
California Vehicle Code 23152(d) VC makes it a crime for those who carry a commercial license from driving a commercial vehicle with a blood alcohol concentration of 0.04 percent or greater.
A California commercial driver license allows someone to operate different classes of commercial vehicles.
For example, a Class A and Class B driver's licenses permit the operation of commercial vehicles and Class C allows carrying of hazardous material.
In order for a prosecutor to convict a commercial driver for VC 23152(d) driving under the influence, they must prove the basically the same factors they would for other drivers.
They will use the results of DUI breath or blood test, along with field sobriety tests and testimony from the arresting police officer.
To help you better understand a commercial DUI charges, our Los Angeles criminal defense lawyers will review the laws more closely below.
Commercial Driver's Licenses
With some exceptions, driving vehicles weighing more than 26,000 pounds, carrying more than fifteen passengers, or designed for hazardous materials requires a commercial driver's license or CDL.
The Federal Motor Carriers Act conditions federal highway funds on state compliance with federal commercial vehicle license laws and regulations.
California follows those federal requirements, as do other states. Getting a CDL requires meeting fitness and skills requirements, including showing a good driving record without DUI convictions.
Special DUI Hazards for Commercial Drivers
Commercial vehicle drivers face two special hazards under DUI laws. The first hazard has to do with California's DUI laws lowering the legal blood alcohol limit.
Drivers of commercial vehicles may suffer a DUI conviction under circumstances where they would not have suffered conviction if driving a non-commercial vehicle.
The second hazard has to do with the effect of a DUI conviction on a driver's commercial license.
Any DUI offense, whether one while operating a commercial vehicle or non-commercial vehicle, affects a driver's commercial license. Commercial vehicle drivers must drive under stricter rules.
Lower Commercial Vehicle DUI Blood Alcohol Limits
California charges ordinary DUI offenses under Vehicle Code 23152 VC.
The ordinary offense, one not involving a commercial vehicle's operation, requires intoxication as an element of the DUI crime but presumes intoxication if the driver's blood alcohol content was at least .08 percent.
However, as noted above, Vehicle Code 23152(d) lowers that .08 minimum to just .04 percent for driving a commercial vehicle:
- “It is unlawful for someone who has 0.04 percent or more, by weight, of alcohol in his or her blood to drive a commercial motor vehicle, as defined in Section 15210.”
Vehicle Code 23152(f) extends the DUI offense to driving under the influence of drugs. That provision also applies to drivers of commercial vehicles.
At just .04 percent blood alcohol content, the defendant may show no signs of intoxication.
The prosecution may have no other evidence that the low level of intoxication affected the defendant's driving. The statute nonetheless presumes intoxication from the measured .04-or-greater level.
Vehicle Code 23152(d) further provides that authorities may use a blood alcohol measure determined within three hours after the driving to prove the unlawful .04 percent:
- “In prosecution under this subsection, it's a rebuttable presumption someone had 0.04 percent or more, by weight, of alcohol in their blood at the time of driving the vehicle if the they had 0.04 percent or more, by weight, of alcohol in their blood at the time of the performance of a chemical test within three hours after the driving.”
Impacts of a DUI Offense on a Commercial Driver's License
California follows federal regulations for suspending CDL licenses for DUI offenses.
That federal regulation suspends the CDL for one year either for operating a commercial vehicle with a blood alcohol level of .04 or greater or operating a non-commercial personal vehicle at .08 or greater blood alcohol.
The driver loses the CDL whether the DUI occurred in a commercial or non-commercial vehicle.
Refusing a sobriety test results in a one-year CDL suspension. Drivers of hazardous material who incur a DUI or refuse a test suffer a three-year suspension.
Under 49 CFR 383.51 and California law, a second DUI results in permanent loss of the CDL.
The commercial driver who loses a CDL also loses employment. Employers must not allow drivers with a suspended or revoked CDL to operate a commercial motor vehicle.
Federal regulations and California law require drivers to report a DUI to their commercial employer. Drivers must notify their commercial vehicle employers the same day they lose their CDL to a DUI arrest or conviction.
Punishments for Commercial Vehicle DUI
The punishments for a commercial vehicle DUI in California are the same as for an ordinary DUI except that Vehicle Code 15300 extends the license suspension from just six months for an ordinary DUI to one year for the commercial DUI.
Otherwise, Vehicle Code 23538 and related law punishes a first DUI offense with up to six months in jail, a fine between $390 and $1,000, probation for three to five years, and three or nine months of education programs.
Put simply, in review, the penalties for a commercial DUI conviction in the state of California could include the following:
- One-year suspension of commercial driver's license;
- Suspension from driving non-commercial vehicles;
- Jail time, probation, large fines, and community service;
- Installation of an ignition interlock device on your car;
- Mandatory alcohol education classes
Clearly, this could also impact your employment and could also cause a sharp increase in your insurance rates.
Commercial drivers are not eligible for a restricted commercial license. A second DUI conviction could result in a permanent commercial license revocation.
Best Defenses to Commercial Vehicle DUI Charges
Commercial vehicle drivers may have the same defenses to a DUI charge as other drivers. Those defenses can include that:
- the officer lacked reasonable suspicion to stop the defendant's vehicle;
- the officer lacked probable cause to investigate for intoxication;
- the defendant did not drive the vehicle but was only a passenger;
- the officers misidentified the defendant due to fraud or mistake;
- the defendant did not drive the vehicle; or
- the defendant was not intoxicated or beyond the legal limit.
Readers should note, however, commercial drivers are held to a higher standard. Thus, a conviction for commercial DUI will face harsh consequences discussed above.
Put simply, you are going to need experienced legal representation to have the best chanced at a favorable on your case.
We need to first review any strengths and weaknesses in your case in order to develop an effective defense strategy.
Negotiation with the prosecutor may be possible to avoid the formal filing of charges, known as "prefiling intervention.”
Eisner Gorin LLP is located in Los Angeles County. You can consult with our expert defense lawyers by calling (310) 328-3776.