Strict Rules and Harsh Penalties: The Pitfalls of a Commercial Driver’s License

If you work for a living, there’s a good chance that your ability to drive is directly related to your capacity to earn money. If you have a Commercial Driver’s License (CDL), however, driving isn’t just related to your livelihood—it is your livelihood. For someone with a CDL, a DUI / OVWI conviction presents some serious challenges.

There are a number of ways you can get your CDL suspended, and Indiana Code 9-24-6-8 lays out several of them. Some of these offenses are obviously and straightforwardly linked to professional driving. For example, if you’re involved in a collision while operating a commercial vehicle and you flee the scene of the accident, you’ll earn a one-year CDL suspension. Even if this penalty seems harsh, it makes a certain amount of sense—you shouldn’t get to keep your CDL if you’ve used it in the commission of a crime.

Section 9-24-6-8, however, is much broader than that, and it isn’t limited to people who’ve operated a commercial vehicle while breaking the law. This statute lists offenses that disqualify you from CDL eligibility “if committed while driving a commercial motor vehicle or while holding any class of commercial driver’s license or permit” (emphasis added). In other words, you can lose your CDL just by getting an ordinary DUI / OVWI—on your own time and in your own vehicle.

Unfortunately, your arrest is just the beginning of your problems. Next, there’s the matter of your one-year CDL suspension. There are no exceptions to this. After that, a qualified criminal defense attorney will likely inform you that Indiana’s laws on Specialized Driving Privileges—while great for allowing defendants to drive to and from their jobs—do not extend to CDL work. Again, there are no exceptions to this. If you have a CDL and you get a DUI / OVWI, you’re not going to be able to legally perform your professional duties for at least a year. Your job will almost certainly be in jeopardy.

If you have a CDL in Indiana, a DUI / OVWI is one of the most serious charges you can face. There are very few scenarios in which a first-time offender can have her life turned completely upside down based on a misdemeanor criminal charge, but this is potentially one of them. The State of Indiana regards driving as a privilege, and it treats commercial driving as an exceptional privilege.

A DUI / OVWI is classified as a major offense, and the State’s major offense penalties are unforgiving. Indiana has published a Commercial Motor Vehicle / Driver Enforcement Deskbook that includes CDL Penalty Charts for Violations Committed in Indiana. These disqualifications are automatic, non-negotiable, and need not be related directly to your operation of a commercial motor vehicle.

Attorney Marc Lopez deals with driver’s license issues every day of his life. He understands how important transportation is to his clients. If you drive for a living, and a single mistake has you stuck between a rock and a hard place, call the Marc Lopez Law Firm at 317-632-3642.