DUI/DWI violations are bad enough when the police catch the driver in his or her own vehicle. It is worse when the driver is in a big rig, hauling a full load down the interstate. State troopers, courts, and prosecutors have no mercy on drivers responsible for transporting 80,000 pounds of cargo at 75 miles per hour who decide to do so while drunk. Drivers need lawyers to squeeze out some of that mercy.
Unfortunately, the laws are very harsh and unforgiving of those who do. The BAC for ordinary drunk drivers is .08, as most people are aware, for commercial drivers, it is .04 while they are driving a commercial vehicle. Even worse, a commercial driver who is stopped for drunk driving in his own personal vehicle can lose his commercial license, if he has had too many offenses, or if the charge is serious enough.
Of course, the best solution is never to drink and drive; but with such low BAC’s, that is unreasonable even for the most teetotaling trucker. The most common offense in America is Driving While Intoxicated. The difference is, for commercial drivers, it can lead to a loss of livelihood.
There are things that a smart commercial driver can do, if stopped and charged with a DWI or DUI, whether in Minnesota or driving through another state. Doing them can save his license.
- Get a lawyer. A DUI/DWI lawyer knows the laws and rules in the state where the citation was given, and most importantly, how much time there is to file certain documents. Although some things can be done “whenever”, others must be done within a few days or weeks.
- Take the blood test. Many drivers wrongly believe that they have the right to refuse a blood test; however, in Minnesota, the CDL can be revoked on a first offense for refusal to take a drug or alcohol test.
- If you drive for a company, notify your supervisor or employer. This is the most difficult part for many drivers, as it seems like asking to be fired. It looks better than having the police tell them, and allows the driver or his attorney to ask for the next step.
- Enter a drug or alcohol rehab program. The attorney may recommend this. Doing this before the court hearing shows an awareness of the problem, and indicates to the judge that the driver does not want the problem to happen again.
- Explore other options. If the offense is serious, or the driver knows there is a real problem with drugs or alcohol, and if he or she has a history of military service, the Veteran’s Court is an alternative. These courts have had excellent success rates with current and former soldiers, sailors and Marines with service-related issues that cause them legal problems.
- Cooperate with your lawyer, with the court, and with your employer. One of the most critical things about beating a DUI/DWI case is to show the judge that you are a good person who made a mistake, and are worth a second chance. Judges do not like giving second chances to those who show up late to court, argue with them, and whose employers do not give them good reports.
- Do not let it happen again. The penalties for second offenses for CDL holders who get a DUI/DWI are more severe than those for first-timers. A second or repeat offender will lose his license for up to ten years, essentially ending his career. A lifetime disqualification for multiple offenses, or for a second serious offense (a fatality, a DUI while hauling a hazardous load), is also possible.
It is essential that any commercial driver find a lawyer or law firm he can trust, and keep the number handy. Even if he never drives drunk, and never intends to, things happen, and false positive tests are not unknown. Have an attorney ready to fight for you if the worst happens, and you find yourself standing in red and blue lights by the side of the road.