If you are arrested for drunk driving in Maryland, a conviction can incur harsh consequences. Penalties may include heavy fines, jail time, loss of driving privileges, probation, community service, higher auto insurance rates, and the requirement to install an ignition interlock device in your vehicle. A criminal conviction can have other consequences as well; such as difficulty obtaining housing, employment, loans, and college admission. For commercial truck drivers, the consequences for DUI are even more severe, and a conviction could even cost them their livelihood.
DUI Penalties for Commercial Truck Drivers
Those who hold a commercial driver’s license (CDL) are held to a higher standard than regular driver’s license holders. This is especially true when it comes to driving under the influence. Regular license holders can be charged for DUI with a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of .08. For those operating a commercial vehicle, the legal limit is only .04. Commercial drivers are also subject to Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) requirements. For example, the FMCSA mandates that commercial drivers cannot use alcohol within four hours of operating a commercial vehicle.
The consequences for a commercial DUI in Maryland vary depending on how many prior DUI convictions you have and other specific circumstances in the case:
- First-Time Commercial DUI Offenses: A first-time drunk driving conviction can result in fines of up to $1,000, up to one year in jail, and a one-year CDL license suspension. This means that a commercial truck driver would not be allowed to drive their truck for an entire year. If the vehicle requires a HAZMAT placard (for hauling hazardous waste), the suspension period is three years.
- Second-Time Commercial DUI Offenses: A second-time DUI can result in fines of up to $2,000, up to two years in jail, and a lifetime revocation of your commercial driving privileges.
If there are aggravated circumstances, penalties for DUI may be enhanced. Examples may include driving with a BAC of .15 or higher, refusal to submit to the mandatory chemical (breath, blood, or urine) test, and a DUI-related accident.
What if a Commercial Truck Driver is Arrested for DUI while Driving a Private Vehicle?
When a CDL holder is operating a non-commercial vehicle, the circumstances are different. The most notable difference is that the legal BAC limit for a private vehicle operator is .08, even if the driver holds a CDL. However, a CDL holder who is arrested for DUI in a private vehicle can still have their CDL suspended for a year. So, while the BAC threshold is higher when you are operating a private vehicle, if you go over the legal limit, the consequences are still very severe.
Defending your Commercial DUI Charge
Defending a drunk driving charge for a CDL holder can be difficult. There are two separate proceedings that must be dealt with; the administrative proceeding with the Maryland Motor Vehicle Administration (MVA), and the criminal proceeding in court. The administrative MVA proceeding pertains to your commercial driving privileges. The first step is to request a hearing, which must be done within 10 days of your DUI arrest. At the hearing, you need to convince the Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) to either take no action or issue a reprimand. It is important to note that issuance of a 45-day work permit will not allow you to keep your CDL.
With the criminal proceeding, you must either win the court case or have the charges dismissed. If the case cannot be won, then you must be able to negotiate a reduction to a lesser offense that will not result in the disqualification of your CDL. In this situation, it is absolutely critical to hire a DUI defense lawyer who has extensive experience successfully handling commercial DUI cases.
Speak with a Skilled Maryland Criminal Defense Attorney
A drunk driving conviction carries harsh penalties, but for commercial truck drivers, the consequences are far worse. If you are a CDL holder who has been charged for DUI, you need strong legal counsel by your side aggressively advocating for your rights and interests.
At the Law Office of Jonathan R. Fellner, L.L.C., we understand what is at stake when an individual is facing the loss of their CDL over a drunk driving offense. Attorney Jonathan Fellner has over two decades of experience successfully defending clients charged for DUI in Maryland. He works closely with his clients to thoroughly analyze their case and formulate the most effective defense strategy to mitigate the situation as much as possible.
To schedule a consultation with attorney Fellner, call us today office at 301-309-2000, email us at firstname.lastname@example.org, visit our office in person, or send us a message through our online contact form.