Charged with DWI while driving a commercial truck? You could be in danger of losing your Texas CDL. The experienced Houston defense attorneys at Johnson, Johnson, & Baer, P.C. can help.
What You Should Know About Commercial Driver’s License (CDL) Suspension In Texas
If you drive a semi truck, 18-wheeler, tractor trailer or other commercial vehicle for a living, losing your CDL after a DWI arrest can leave you worried that your next trip will be to the unemployment office. Don’t lose your CDL!
What’s the Legal Limit for CDL Drivers in Texas?
The “legal limit” for intoxication while driving a commercial vehicle is well below .08 blood alcohol content (BAC) for drivers licensed with a standard license. If your BAC is .04 or higher while you’re operating a commercial vehicle on a Texas road, you are over the legal limit and could face DWI charges in addition to having your CDL revoked.
The .04 BAC limit for commercial drivers in Texas puts female CDL holders at a particular disadvantage due to physiological differences that prevent women from processing alcohol as quickly as men. A 140-pound woman who drinks a single light beer before getting behind the wheel may test at a .26 or higher BAC, making a second drink (or even half a drink) a risky prospect.
While men and larger individuals may need to drink a bit more heavily to reach this limit, it is possible to have a BAC of .04 or higher and not feel intoxicated or even buzzed, especially if you’re a regular drinker. Because of this, many may face CDL suspension even when they viewed themselves as safe to drive.
Dispute CDL Suspension – Our Attorneys Can Help
A commercial driver’s license suspension that takes place after a DWI arrest isn’t set in stone — you’ll have several opportunities to plead your case and attempt to renew your driving privileges. Our DWI defense attorneys are well versed in the CDL suspension process in Texas and can help present a strong defense so you can maintain your livelihood after being arrested for DWI on a CDL.
For What Reasons Can My CDL Get Suspended?
- Refusing a Sobriety or Alcohol Test
- .04 BAC or Higher While Driving a Commercial Vehicle
- .08 BAC or Higher Driving a Non-Commercial Passenger Vehicle
If you’re pulled over by an officer who has probable cause to suspect you’ve been drinking, your mere presence on a public road provides implied consent for the officer to administer an alcohol test.
Refusing to take such a test will result in an automatic CDL suspension, as will consenting to the test and revealing a BAC higher than .04 if you’re pulled over while operating a commercial vehicle or higher than .08 while driving any other vehicle. Those who test at .08 or higher while driving a passenger vehicle will also be subject to the suspension of their regular driver’s license.
Although a DWI arrest is generally the most common reason for a CDL suspension, there are a few other situations in which your CDL may also be suspended:
- A doctor has indicated you are not safe behind the wheel; or
- You’ve recently been involved in an at-fault accident without valid insurance.
Interestingly, the Department of Public Safety recently announced that they will not pursue sleep apnea tests for drivers operating commercial vehicles such as commuter trains, subways, and trams like they had previously announced.
CDL License Suspension Period for DWI
If you’re charged with DWI (operating a commercial vehicle at .04 BAC or higher or any other vehicle at .08 or higher), you’ll face an automatic suspension of your CDL for a maximum of one year. This one-year suspension can also be implemented if you’re pulled over for suspicion of DWI and refuse to provide a blood or breath sample to the officer.
If you’re charged with operating a commercial vehicle transporting hazardous waste while intoxicated, you’ll also face a maximum one year CDL suspension and an additional up to three year suspension on hauling hazardous material.
How Can I Get My CDL Back?
After your DWI arrest, you’ll be afforded the opportunity to request review of your CDL suspension through the administrative license review, or ALR dispute process. By requesting a hearing, you’ll be able to present your case to an administrative law judge and argue why you should be permitted to keep your CDL.
The time frame for your request for a hearing is a quick one — you have only 15 days following your arrest to request a hearing date, and missing this deadline will waive your ability to appeal the suspension. If the suspension is upheld at this hearing, you also have the right to appeal, and must file a notice of your intent to appeal within 30 days of the adverse decision.
If you’re planning to pursue this option, it’s usually a good idea to consult with an experienced attorney first. The administrative process can be complex, and having a good lawyer on your side can often mean the difference between keeping or losing your CDL and regular driver’s license and even winning or losing your underlying criminal case.
Can you get an occupational CDL If You’ve Been Charged with a DWI in Texas?
No. While drivers of passenger vehicles who are charged with DWI are often able to obtain occupational licenses which allow them to travel to and from work or school even with a suspended license (albeit with some significant restrictions), there exists no equivalent for CDLs. Once your CDL is suspended for DWI, you’ll be restricted from driving commercial vehicles until one year has passed from your initial arrest, even if you’re able to obtain a hardship license to drive a passenger vehicle in the meantime.
If you’ve gone through the administrative review process and exhausted your license suspension appeals but still haven’t persuaded a judge to overturn the automatic suspension of your CDL, you may need to switch to desk duty until you’re able to regain your license.
- Texas Department of Public Safety, Administrative License Revocation. https://www.dps.texas.gov/DriverLicense/alr.htm
- State of Texas Criminal Statutes and Penal Code: TRANSPORTATION CODE; TITLE 7. VEHICLES AND TRAFFIC; SUBTITLE B. DRIVER’S LICENSES AND PERSONAL IDENTIFICATION CARDS; CHAPTER 524. ADMINISTRATIVE SUSPENSION OF DRIVER’S LICENSE FOR FAILURE TO PASS TEST FOR INTOXICATION; SUBCHAPTER A. GENERAL PROVISIONS. http://www.statutes.legis.state.tx.us/Docs/TN/htm/TN.524.htm
- Intoximeters, The Drink Wheel. Test your BrAC with this Calculator. http://www.intox.com/DrinkWheelResults.aspx