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Permanent Loss of Commercial Driving Privileges - Vehicle Code 15302 VC

Posted by Dmitry Gorin | May 21, 2024

While California law is stringent when it comes to driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol, those standards are even more stringent for commercial drivers.

While successive DUIs can result in progressively longer suspensions of a standard driver's license in most cases, CDL license holders are given little grace in this area.

Permanent Loss of Commercial Driving Privileges - California Vehicle Code 15302 VC
Vehicle Code 15302 VC is the law authorizing permanent loss of commercial driving privileges.

In fact, under Vehicle Code 15302 VC, you could lose your commercial driving privileges permanently if you have a commercial driver's license (CDL) and are convicted of a second DUI or certain other offenses.

California Vehicle Code 23152(d) VC is the commercial DUI law. It makes it a crime to drive a commercial vehicle with a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of .04% or higher.

Understanding the law is crucial for all commercial drivers. The legal limit of .04 % for driving a commercial vehicle is significantly lower than the standard limit of .08% for non-commercial vehicles.

It's important to note that these limits are strict legal limits, applying regardless of whether or not your driving is impaired by alcohol. This knowledge empowers you to make informed decisions and avoid serious legal consequences.

What Does the Law Say?

California Vehicle Code 15302 VC says, "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.

California Vehicle Code 23152(d) VC

(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 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."

Overview of Vehicle Code 15302 VC

VC 15302 states plainly and simply that "a driver shall not operate a commercial motor vehicle for the rest of his or her life" upon a second conviction for certain violations-most notably, driving under the influence.

A commercial motor vehicle (CMV) is any vehicle that requires a CDL to operate, including but not limited to:

  • Tractor-trailers,
  • Semi-trucks,
  • Box trucks,
  • School buses,
  • Passenger vans with more than 16 occupants.

VC 15302 is a law designed to prioritize safety on California roads. It aims to ensure that individuals with a history of serious traffic violations, including DUIs, are prevented from operating commercial vehicles.

This law mandates that a CDL holder convicted a second time for any qualifying offense is permanently barred from holding a commercial driving privilege again. Understanding and adhering to this law is crucial in maintaining road safety.

What Offenses Can Cause Permanent Revocation of a CDL?

VC 15302 includes a list of specific offenses for which someone can lose their CDL privileges for life upon a second conviction. The list of offenses includes, but is not limited to:

  • DUI Offenses: This includes VC 23152 (basic DUI) violations and VC 23153 (DUI resulting in injury).
  • Leaving the Scene of an Accident: Being involved in an accident involving the commercial vehicle driven by the CDL holder, then leaving the accident scene without providing the required information or assistance.
  • Causing a Fatality: Being found to be at fault for an accident resulting in the death of another person. (See Penal Code 191.5 PC, Penal Code 192 PC).
  • Eluding Police: Violating Section 2800.1, 2800.2, or 2800.3 involving a commercial motor vehicle.
  • License Misuse: Operating a commercial vehicle when the CDL is revoked, suspended, or canceled or when the driver is disqualified from operating such vehicles.
  • Refusal to Undergo Chemical Testing: Refusing to submit or failing to complete a chemical test as per Vehicle Code 23612 VC.
  • Using a Commercial Vehicle in the Commission of a Felony: Beyond simply committing a felony, this offense involves using the commercial vehicle as a tool to commission the crime.

What Are Other Things You Need to Know About This Law?

  • VC 15302 applies to any combination of the listed offenses constituting a second conviction, not just two convictions for the same offense. For example, if you're convicted of leaving the scene of an accident in your commercial vehicle, but you previously were convicted of DUI, you could still have your CDL permanently revoked.
  • Using a commercial vehicle in the process of drug trafficking results in the permanent loss of a CDL on the first offense. Where using the vehicle in the commission of other felonies falls under the "second conviction" rule, VC 15304 specifically calls for immediate lifetime loss of a CDL on conviction of using the vehicle "in the commission of a felony involving manufacturing, distributing, or dispensing a controlled substance" or with the intention to do so.

What Are the Defense Strategies to Avoid Permanent Loss of a CDL?

To be clear, under VC 15302, "for life" means "for life." If you lose your commercial driving privileges under this law, there is no option for eventual reinstatement of your CDL.

For this reason, it's crucial to engage a skilled California criminal defense attorney to advocate for you if you're threatened with losing your CDL because of a second qualifying conviction. Some defense strategies an attorney may use include:

  • Challenging the Accuracy of the DUI Test Results: Contesting the validity and reliability of the breathalyzer, blood, or urine tests that indicated intoxication levels.
  • Procedural Errors During Arrest: Identifying and arguing any procedural mistakes or rights violations during the DUI arrest process that could render the evidence inadmissible.
  • Questioning the Legality of the Traffic Stop: Arguing that the initial traffic stop was made without probable cause, making any evidence collected during the stop subject to exclusion.
  • Improper Handling of Chemical Test Samples: Highlighting any mishandling, contamination, or improper storage of the chemical test samples that could compromise test results.
  • Necessity: In rare cases, arguing that the driving violation resulted from an emergency, making it a necessity at the moment.
  • Mistake of Fact: Claiming a genuine mistake of fact, such as unknowingly consuming a drink spiked with alcohol, thus affecting the ability to make an informed decision about driving.

Contact our criminal defense law firm for more information. Eisner Gorin LLP is in Los Angeles, CA.

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About the Author

Dmitry Gorin

Dmitry Gorin is a licensed attorney, who has been involved in criminal trial work and pretrial litigation since 1994. Before becoming partner in Eisner Gorin LLP, Mr. Gorin was a Senior Deputy District Attorney in Los Angeles Courts for more than ten years. As a criminal tri...

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