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Commercial DUI Overreaction May Result in Harsher Penalties

by | May 17, 2013

A single commercial DUI arrest in the Chicago-area has led to an overreaction by state leaders, proposing that commercial drivers arrested for DUI while on duty would face a felony charged of aggravated DUI – which in Illinois carries a three-year prison sentence.

Our D.C. DUI defense attorneys realize that the arrest that started this whole push, involving a prom party bus, had upset many parents, especially those whose children were in the vehicle. However, DUI penalties are also very tough for commercial drivers as it is, especially considering the threshold of intoxication for them is 0.04 percent, half of what it is for other drivers.

As it now stands, a commercial DUI conviction without injury or property damage will result in a first-degree misdemeanor, punishable by up to one year in jail.

The criminal ramifications also don’t even begin to touch the professional penalties, which can include being stripped of the ability to work in that field again – regardless of whether the driver had a crash or anyone was hurt. This is especially true considering the recent updates to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Association standards, as outlined in the recent federal MAP-21 initiative.

Now on top of that, Illinois wants to make these people convicted felons? This is particularly appalling considering we’re talking about a singular incident, causing no death or injuries, that kicked this entire thing off.

The 54-year-old driver was stopped by law enforcement officials in suburban Chicago while he was transporting nearly two dozen to their senior prom nearby. Some of the students had called their parents to report that the driver was operating the vehicle erratically. He had reportedly ran into a ditch and then swerved over two medians after picking up the last of the students in a subdivision. The parents then contacted local police.

The police arrested the driver after finding his blood alcohol content at nearly three times the legal limit and charged him with misdemeanor DUI and reckless conduct.

News of this arrest triggered the House Republican leader, who lives in the suburban community where the incident occurred, to propose this tougher law, which will soon be voted on by the entire House soon.

The proposal came the same day as the National Transportation Safety Board recommended a nationwide reduction of DUI BAC limits from the standard 0.08 percent to 0.05 percent.

The recent MAP-21 initiatives resulted in a national drug and alcohol testing database, so that commercial drivers who have prior DUI arrests or have been identified as having a substance abuse issue can’t find work in other states.

And per FMCSA’s standards, Section 383.51, commercial drivers are disqualified from doing their jobs for a full 1 year just for a first-time conviction of DUI while operating a commercial motor vehicle. Second or subsequent offenses will result in commercial driver license suspensions that can last anywhere from 3 years to life.

Serious traffic offenses, such as reckless operation, carry their own additional commercial license suspension periods, generally between 60 to 120 days.

If you are facing DUI charges in D.C., contact the Scrofano Law, PC at 202-765-3175.