A driver operating a commercial vehicle and carrying a Commercial Drivers' License (CDL) does not carry the exact same rights as other drivers. Driving a commercial vehicle means that you have already given implied consent to drug or alcohol testing required by the State of Washington. This means that if you are stopped for a DUI, you do not have the opportunity to withhold consent to test the level of drugs or alcohol in your system.
The consequences of a DUI conviction are very severe for commercial drivers because the consequences carry with them the risk of losing a job. First, because it is illegal to operate a commercial vehicle with any alcohol in the system, law enforcement could place an impaired driver out of service for up to 24 hours. If convicted of operating a commercial vehicle under the influence, a driver may stand to lose his/her CDL for one year (3 years if the incident occurred while the driver was transporting hazardous materials.)
Even worse, if a driver is found guilty of a second instance of driving a commercial vehicle under the influence, the driver runs the risk of losing his/her CDL for life. The Washington Department of Licensing does not allow a driver to re-qualify for a CDL after this sort of lifetime disqualification.
In the event that a CDL is suspended, cancelled, or disqualified, a driver will not be able to operate a commercial vehicle. This means that a driver runs the risk of losing his/her job because they are no longer licensed to drive a commercial vehicle. You will have to notify your employer of all traffic convictions within the last 30 days, meaning that you must inform your employer of your DUI.
While a CDL is suspended, you cannot get an Occupational/Restricted License to drive a commercial vehicle; you may only apply for a license to operate a non-commercial vehicle. Once again, this means that if you depend on commercial driving for your job, you likely will not be able to perform your employment duties.
These reasons show why it is imperative to request a Department of Licensing hearing at least 20 days after an arrest. Like all DUIs, driving a commercial vehicle while allegedly impaired runs the risk of extreme consequences. If your job requires you to maintain your CDL, then you undoubtedly have a lot at stake when fighting a DUI charge. The only way to avoid these penalties is to know the law, understand your rights, and fight your DUI charge with full force.
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