Commercial Driver’s Licenses (CDL’s) are required to drive most commercial motor vehicles (CMV’s) such as trucks and vans. An OWI in a commercial vehicle has serious consequences, even for a first offense.

CDL’s are required for most commercial drivers.

Everyone does or should understand the danger of driving intoxicated. The danger is multiplied if a truck driver drives impaired. The law recognizes the increased danger with a truck or other commercial motor vehicle and provides for strict penalties and license sanctions for OWI in a commercial motor vehicle (CMV).

CDL’s may only be obtained by persons who can pass the CDL knowledge and skills test, which is required by the Secretary of State. There is no requirement to take a class or training program; if you pass the test, you may get a CDL. A person must be 21 years old to drive a CMV across state lines or transport hazardous materials, and 18 years old if the driver stays within state lines and does not transport hazardous materials. Additionally, all people seeking a CDL must obtain and keep with them a medical examiner’s certificate, proving they are in acceptable physical and mental condition.

Who must possess a CDL?

CDL’s are required for anyone who:

  • Operates a vehicle of a gross weight of 26,001 pounds or more;
  • Tows a trailer or other vehicle with a gross weight of 10,001 pounds or more;
  • Drives a vehicle transporting 16 people or more (including the driver);
  • Drives a CMV carrying hazardous materials.
Michigan Criminal Defense Attorney

Alcohol-Related Violations with a CDL

A 24-hour “out-of-service order” (no operating a CMV for at least 24 hours) will be issued if a CDL driver:

  • Refuses a preliminary breath test (PBT);
  • Consumes alcohol within 4 hours of operating a CMV;
  • Consumes alcohol while operating a CMV;
  • Has a bodily alcohol content of 0.04 or higher (as opposed to 0.08 for an operator’s license)

All non-CDL rules and punishments still apply to any intoxicated or impaired driving. Just as with operator or chauffeur driver’s licenses, CDL drivers are deemed to have consented to take a PBT if a police officer requests it. Of course, it is also illegal for anyone, including CDL holders, to drive while impaired by drugs.

Special Ramifications to a CDL of Driving While Intoxicated (OWI or DUI)

The penalties for CDL drivers are severe. If you are convicted of refusing a PBT or a first offense OWI, your CDL will be suspended for a year. If you were driving a truck carrying hazardous materials at the time you were stopped, there is a 3-year suspension for a PBT refusal or OWI conviction. If you get a second or third drinking and driving offense, your CDL will be revoked for 10 years.

These suspensions and revocations are mandatory, and no appeal and no restricted license is available as with operator’s licenses; a professional CDL driver’s livelihood will be “grounded” for at least a year, and as stated above, possibly 3 years or 10 years.

Even if you were not driving a CMV and were driving your personal automobile while intoxicated, the CDL penalties still apply because the law presumes you can’t be trusted when you are driving a CMV.

These penalties would be harsh for any driver, CDL, or not. But with a CDL, a person’s job and livelihood are on the line. Such penalties could result in a loss of a business or the CMV’s themselves due to a lack of income from transporting things. For some, it can cause a loss of business and bankruptcy.

Because the penalties for OWI with a CDL are so potentially disastrous for a commercial truck driver, every possible defense must be explored. The stakes are high, and a defense lawyer must be experienced, aggressive, and willing to do whatever it takes to get his or her client every possible advantage in the case.

Michigan Criminal Defense Attorneys

Criminal Penalties for an Operating While Intoxicated with a CDL

Drunken driving penalties have become very severe in the past few years in Michigan.

  • First Offense OWI with a CDL: The maximum jail sentence is 93 days with up to 2 years of probation.
  • Second Offense OWI with a CDL: The maximum possible sentence is 1 year for a second offense within 7 years. There is a mandatory minimum of 5 days, with up to 2 years of probation.
  • Third Offense in a lifetime, with a CDL: The maximum possible sentence is 5 years in prison and up to 5 years on probation.

Defenses to Operating a CDL While Intoxicated

As with any OWI case, it is imperative to obtain the best defense attorney you can find. An attorney’s experience with OWI cases is critically important. Still, you must make sure the attorney is familiar with defending CDL drinking and driving cases because they have different proofs and penalties that reach into a person’s very ability to earn a living. Many of the defenses to CDL intoxicated driving cases overlap with ordinary operator license defenses, and can include:

  • Faulty field sobriety tests;
  • Faulty PBT and Datamaster results;
  • Failure to follow PBT and Datamaster administrative procedures;
  • Lack of probable cause for police to make a stop;
  • Inability to establish alcohol level at the time of driving;
  • No actual “operating”;
  • Inadmissibility and suppression of alleged statements or confessions.
Michigan Criminal Defense Attorneys - Lewis & Dickstein PLLC

CDL Operating While Intoxicated Defense Lawyers

No matter how hopeless a case may seem to a client, we always find a way to make it better, if we cannot find a way to make it go away. Even if it ends up being impossible to have a case dismissed and thrown out of court, we will find a way to lessen the potential penalties and impacts on a client’s life, because we leave no stone unturned in fighting for our clients.

In case it was not obvious from the start, it should be clear that a novice attorney or one who “dabbles” in criminal law or is a bargain-priced lawyer can cost you your career and your life as you know it. Don’t trust your fate to the lowest bidder. It is as simple as that.

The devoted, experienced, and passionate OWI defense attorneys at LEWIS & DICKSTEIN, P.L.L.C. have successfully represented thousands of clients on felony and misdemeanor charges, including defending and protecting clients’ CDL licenses, throughout Michigan. We are well-known for providing the highest caliber defense and aggressive representation while showing empathy and personal concern for each client. Call us today at (248) 263-6800 or complete a Request for Assistance Form and we will contact you promptly.