Can You Keep Your CDL After Getting a DUI in Florida - CDL Defense Lawyers in Florida?

Having a commercial driver’s license (CDL) is a privilege, just like having a standard driver’s license. However, a CDL is perhaps more valuable than a regular driver’s license. Many industries rely on CDL drivers to transport goods, materials, and people around. Therefore, having a CDL is necessary for some people to earn a good living. 

The pressure to maintain one’s CDL status is high. Florida law, and indeed federal law, hold CDL licensees to a higher standard of safety than the average motorist due to the type of cargo a CDL driver has the authority to haul and the types of vehicles a CDL holder can operate. Accordingly, penalties for CDL drivers could appear harsh. However, those penalties are in place to assure the only the safest CDL holders in Florida operate on the state’s roads. The stakes are simply too high, and the consequences are too grave to allow an unsafe, careless, or inebriated CDL driver on the roads.

Florida’s Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles, abbreviated as FLHSMV, issue suspensions for CDLs in the Sunshine State. The FLHSMV has the authority to suspend a CDL for numerous reasons. Some of those reasons include driving under the influence of intoxicating liquors, driving under the influence of drugs, driving while having possession of controlled substances, driving fifteen miles per hour in excess of the posted speed limit, driving recklessly, refusing to take a blood alcohol level test (BAC), or being cited for two serious driving offenses or more within a three-year timeframe. 

The length of suspension of a CDL in Florida depends upon the severity of the infraction. For example, a conviction for DUI, irrespective of whether the inebriating substance was drugs or alcohol, carries an automatic one-year suspension of a CDL with no possibility of obtaining a hardship license. Similarly, a conviction for driving while in possession of a controlled substance also carries a one-year minimum suspension of a CDL, again with no potential to earn a hardship license. Refusing to take a chemical test after an arrest for intoxicated operation carries a one-year suspension of the CDL. However, the CDL holder can apply for a hardship license in that instance. Receiving citations or summonses for two serious motor vehicle infractions within three years carries a 60-day suspension of a CDL, and three serious driving offenses in three years results in a suspension lasting 120 days.

Driving a commercial motor vehicle is inherently dangerous considering the size and weight of the vehicle combined with its payload. Specialized training is required to operate such a large vehicle safely, and people are in danger anytime a CDL operator’s faculties are diminished. Accordingly, the federal authorities from the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration can suspend a CDL for 60 days up to life for a DUI charge. Those penalties are in addition to, and not in lieu of, the penalties the FLHSMV can levy.

Driving under the influence during the operation of a commercial motor vehicle is a serious crime. Any CDL driver who has a BAC of 0.04% or above is driving under the influence. The standard for a passenger vehicle is 0.08% BAC. The FLHSMV will suspend the driver’s CDL for a minimum of one year. However, the length of suspension will be three years if the driver was hauling hazardous materials at the time of the stop. It is important to recognize that none of these penalties have any influence on the outcome of the criminal case brought by law enforcement against the CDL holder. The CDL holder, like every other person facing DUI charges in Florida, could be penalized by incarceration, assessments of fines and fees, DUI driving school, and additional license suspension.

The CDL holder could face collateral consequences in addition to those mentioned above. The CDL holder could lose his or her employment because of a DUI arrest, a conviction for DUI will remain on a permanent driving record and possibly hindering future employment opportunities, paying CDL reinstatement fees, and an increase in auto insurance rates. CDL drivers get no second chance. A second conviction for DUI while operating a commercial motor vehicle will result in a lifetime suspension of the CDL. 

The FLHSMV will not automatically reinstate a CDL once the mandatory suspension time has expired. The FLHSMV could order the licensee to attend a substance abuse treatment program, satisfy all requirements imposed by the criminal court and pay all fines and fees, and possibly retake and pass all CDL certification examinations. The CDL holder must also pay reinstatement fees. The fees for suspension can range from $60.00, $75.00, and $130.00 depending on the nature of the offense causing the suspension. Suspensions for DUI carry at reinstatement fee of $130.00.

A CDL can be protected after a DUI charge in Florida. First, the CDL holder can contest whether he or she failed the BAC test or refused to take the BAC test. The CDL holder has ten days to appeal the automatic suspension to the FLHSMV and ask for a hearing. The outcome of the appeals hearing could determine whether the CDL holder will face an immediate suspension.

Avoiding a longer suspension for a conviction of DUI or a second-offense DUI could be accomplished by negotiating in criminal court. Depending on the circumstances of the incident surrounding the CDL holder’s DUI arrest, the state’s attorney could agree to a plea bargain to a lesser charge that does not involve any alcohol-related infractions. Additionally, there are avenues a CDL holder can pursue in criminal court that could result in the case getting thrown out of court. 

Self-representation is ill-advised in these circumstances. Florida’s DUI laws are extremely complex and intersect with several other rules that only experienced Florida DUI defense attorneys can apply. There is simply too much to risk to try to handle the matter personally without representation. Having a knowledgeable CDL DUI attorney as your counsel will help protect your means of making a living, and protect your family from an uncertain financial future.