Let’s take a look at an Indiana DUI topic that doesn’t get enough attention—the impact of a DUI arrest on a person’s commercial driver’s license (CDL). Regulations and standards for CDLs are controlled by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration. In the State of Indiana, a CDL is required in order to lawfully operate:
- a commercial motor vehicle or combination of vehicles with a gross vehicle weight rating in excess of 26,000 pounds;
- a vehicle designed to transport 16 or more people; and
- a vehicle used to transport hazardous materials.
As a result, CDLs are a crucial part of our economy, whether we’re talking about keeping the shelves stocked with goods, getting people home safely, or disposing of dangerous waste.
The Stakes for CDL Holders
When a CDL holder is charged with a DUI, the consequences are extreme. Most DUI cases involve a driver failing a certified chemical test. If this chemical test failure is reported to the Bureau of Motor Vehicles (BMV), it triggers an automatic one-year CDL disqualification—even before the case is resolved.
If no disqualification is imposed while the case is pending, it will likely occur if and when the CDL driver is convicted. For a first offense, the disqualification lasts for one year. If you’re charged again, the stakes are even higher. A second DUI conviction results in a lifetime CDL disqualification.
The Prosecutor’s Perspective
A prosecutor isn’t likely to negotiate when dealing with a CDL DUI case. From their point of view, a CDL holder is a professional who is held to a higher standard than normal drivers. The rationale is clear—we can’t risk individuals driving under the influence while delivering essential goods to our stores or transporting products that are vital to our daily lives.
Even if a prosecutor is in a generous mood, they don’t have the authority to adjust the CDL penalties, which are set at the federal level. If you’re a CDL driver facing DUI charges, there’s very little that an individual prosecutor can do to affect your CDL status.
Looking Forward: Obtaining or Reinstating a CDL
What if you want to obtain a CDL, but you have a DUI conviction in your past? The good news is, for purposes of CDL disqualification, the BMV only counts DUIs that occur after becoming a CDL driver.
Past DUI convictions—though relevant in many other ways, including to prospective employers—won’t count against someone seeking a CDL for the first time. Keep in mind though, that a record of multiple DUIs is bound to affect your employability as a professional driver.
If your CDL has been expired, disqualified, canceled, revoked, voluntarily surrendered, relinquished, or invalidated for longer than three years, you’ll have to retake the licensing tests as if you were a new applicant. There are no reinstatements for lifetime CDL disqualifications.
Make the Right Call
If you’re facing DUI charges and trying to hold onto your CDL, it’s important to consult with a knowledgeable Indiana DUI lawyer. The attorneys at the Marc Lopez Law Firm approach CDL cases with the utmost seriousness, recognizing that a person’s very livelihood is at stake.
We understand that most truck drivers have built their lives around driving, and losing the ability to operate a commercial vehicle can be a devastating blow. Even if a CDL disqualification is inevitable, a good attorney can assist with damage control and making sure that things don’t get any worse than they need to.
If you’re a CDL holder who’s charged with an Indiana DUI, you need an experienced attorney looking out for your best interests. The Marc Lopez Law Firm is here to help. Give us a call at 317-632-3642 and remember—always plead the 5th!