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D.C. Commercial DUI: Lower Threshold, Higher Stakes

by | Feb 18, 2013

A state court in Pennsylvania recently overturned a lower court’s decision and ruled in favor of a lifetime revocation of the commercial driving license of a trucker who was twice convicted of DUI.

Our D.C. DUI defense lawyers know that the stakes in drunk driving cases are much higher for those who depend on their ability to drive in order to make a living. In this case, as in many, it doesn’t even matter if the offense occurred while you were actually on the job or in your company-owned vehicle.

In this case, the truck driver had gotten both DUI charges while he was off-duty, in his private vehicle. Previously, the truck driver and his attorney had successfully argued in county court that the lifetime ban was invalid because the existing language in the state law isn’t crystal clear. The county court agreed. But the superior court judge found that state lawmakers did intend for professional drivers to lose their commercial driver’s licenses when they were convicted of two or more DUIS – regardless of whether they were in their own vehicles.

The driver here had pleaded guilty to two separate DUI charges in 2010. The second time, he was ordered to serve between six months to a year in jail.

This incident too proves why it’s generally not prudent to simply plead guilty to these charges, no matter what the evidence. A DUI conviction on your permanent record often has unforeseen consequences well into the future.

In D.C., the laws governing commercial drivers and DUIs just got tougher. The Comprehensive Impaired Driving Act of 2012, emergency legislation that went into effect in July of last year, not only set tougher penalties for first-time DUI offenders and those with especially high blood alcohol content, it also took aim at commercial drivers.

Commercial driver’s licenses are required for more than just operation of a tractor-trailer. Think motor coaches, buses, limousines and taxis. Stripping someone of their commercial license, especially when their other professional experience is limited, can be a one-way ticket to poverty.

The new law reduced the allowable BAC content for commercial drivers in D.C. from 0.08 percent, as it is for most other drivers, down to 0.04 percent. For a 200-pound person, that is generally somewhere between 2 and 3 drinks. For those commercial vehicle operators who are arrested for DUI in D.C., they will have to serve a minimum mandatory 5 days in jail, in addition to whatever other penalty they receive. Much of that may depend on your blood alcohol content at the time you were arrested. All drivers with a BAC higher than 0.30 percent will face a minimum of 20 days behind bars, per the new law.

D.C. doesn’t have a lifetime ban on commercial driver’s licenses for DUIs like Pennsylvania, but commercial drivers’ privileges are governed by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Association. That agency bars any operation of a commercial vehicle within four hours of alcohol consumption. Refusal to take a breathalyzer or blood test following an accident could result in commercial license revocation.

Further, drivers who are found to have engaged in the “misuse of alcohol” have to be evaluated by a substance abuse professional before they are allowed back on the  road.

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