A criminal charge for driving under the influence (DUI) in Washington is stressful enough if you do not depend on your driver's license for your main source of income. For most of us, we use our driving privileges to get to and from work, and to run errands or enjoy life. But there are some among us whose driving privileges are the basis for their employment or small business. Professional and commercial drivers – including taxi drivers and truck drivers – need to keep their driver's licenses in a good status in order to make the money they need to support themselves and their families. For these drivers, a DUI charge is a threat not only to their ability to drive, but also to their position, career and livelihood.
Washington Holds Commercial Drivers to a Higher Standard
Unfortunately, the State of Washington holds commercial drivers to an even higher standard than it holds other drivers, when it comes to drunk driving. While normal drivers face a DUI charge if they are found to have a blood alcohol content (BAC) of 0.08% or above while on the road, commercial drivers can face temporary or permanent loss of their CDL for the same charge for having a BAC at or over merely 0.04%!
While the theory behind this difference is presumably that a high BAC arguably leads to more crashes, and crashes involving tractor trailers and other commercial vehicles generally cause greater damage and worse injuries, it still singles out a small subset of people who drive for a living and holds them to a higher legal standard than other drivers.
DUI Penalties for Commercial Drivers Are Higher Than for Non-Commercial Drivers
While the lower legal limit for commercial drivers to maintain their CDL (i.e., driving with a BAC of over 0.04%) is very harsh, concerning their job maintenance, and even face "loss of service" of their CDL license privileges for lesser amended-down charges per a plea bargain, such as if their attorney gets the DUI reduced to a Reckless Driving charge and they plead guilty to it, they also face the same criminal sanctions (i.e., mandatory minimum jail time, court fines and fees, court-ordered treatment, etc.) as well as driver license suspension or revocation of their personal driver's license to drive their non-work, personal vehicles as those faced by non-commercial drivers. So, while the fines and potential jail time faced by first-time and repeat offenders are the same as those for commercial and non-commercial drivers, commercial drivers face a CDL license suspension that is far stricter and more damaging to their jobs, income and hence their families. Regular drivers convicted for a first DUI face a license suspension of between 90 days and a year. Commercial drivers, however, always lose their CDL endorsement for a year for a first DUI conviction. If they were transporting hazardous materials, this loss of CDL turns into three years. Additionally, subsequent offenses for non-commercial drivers increase the length of the license suspension, but a commercial driver's second offense leads to a lifetime CDL revocation.
Harsh Penalties Make Having a Skilled DUI-Defense Attorney a Necessity
The strictness of Washington's DUI laws for commercial drivers makes it crucial to have a solid DUI-defense attorney on your side, should you get arrested and charged for DUI. Your commercial driver's license is not just a way for you to get to work – it is your work. Losing it to a license suspension is tantamount to getting fired, and it often leads to getting fired, depending on your company's policies. Call Phil Weinberg at (425) 367-1122 or contact me online. I will fight to save your CDL and your job at the DOL and in the court.