In many cases, charges for driving while intoxicated (DWI) can jeopardize your driver’s license. For CDL drivers, the stakes are even higher.
CDL drivers can be charged with DWIs like any other driver on the road. However, CDL drivers are held to stricter standards than ordinary drivers. While most drivers are restricted by a legal blood alcohol concentration (BAC) level of .08%, the limit is lower for CDL drivers. The penalties also tend to be stricter. While a license suspension is possible for many drivers convicted of DWIs, it is almost guaranteed for CDL drivers. Once your suspension is served, your CDL license is not automatically restored, and it might never be restored in some cases. An attorney can help you fight your DWI charges so you can hopefully keep your CDL and maintain your livelihood.
If you are a commercial driver whose CDL is at stake, our Atlantic City DWI defense lawyers can help you challenge the case against you. For a free case assessment, call the Law Offices of John J. Zarych at (609) 616-4956.
DWI Charges Against CDL Drivers in New Jersey
While all drivers may be charged with a DWI in New Jersey, the laws apply a bit differently to those with CDLs. Ordinarily, under N.J.S.A. § 39:4-50(a), a person may be charged with a DWI per se if they are driving with a BAC of .08% or higher. This “legal limit” is lower for CDL drivers. Under N.J.S.A. § 39:3-10.13, CDL drivers may be charged with a DWI per se if they have a BAC of .04% or higher. Our New Jersey DWI defense attorneys can help you go over your BAC test results.
There are several reasons why CDL drivers are held to higher standards. First, people rely on CDL drivers for safety. Drivers who operate public transportation, trucks, private buses, and other forms of transit might carry numerous passengers. An accident is not only dangerous for the driver but also for their passengers. Second, CDL drivers often drive very large rigs that pose an extremely serious threat to safety in an accident. For example, if a large truck toppled over because the trucker was intoxicated, multiple cars around the truck could be damaged, and many people might be hurt.
Penalties for CDL Drivers After DWIs in New Jersey
For ordinary drivers, penalties can be found under the ordinary DWI statute listed above and include possible license suspensions, fines, and even jail time. CDL drivers also face these same possible penalties along with additional penalties against their CDL.
Under N.J.S.A. § 39:3-10.20(a)(1), the Chief Administrator of the New Jersey Motor Vehicle Commission may suspend your commercial driver’s license for at least 1 year and no more than 3 years after you are convicted of a DWI. This suspension is in addition to any other penalties proscribed by law under other statutes.
Even if you are not convicted of the DWI, you might still face penalties if you refuse to submit to any legally required chemical testing. By law, drivers are required to submit to chemical testing for DWIs once the police have gathered enough probable cause to arrest them. Your CDL might be suspended for at least 1 and up to 3 years if you refuse to submit to chemical testing.
Your suspension might also depend on what you did when you were arrested for the DWI. For example, commercial drivers transporting hazardous waste will have their CDLs suspended for no less than 3 years.
A subsequent DWI leads to even harsher penalties. For a second or subsequent DWI, the Chief Administrator might revoke your CDL for life. This can be devastating for drivers whose livelihoods depend on having a CDL. Our Wildwood DWI defense attorneys can help you fight any allegations of DWIs and help you hold on to your CDL.
Can I Keep My CDL if I am Charged with a DWI in New Jersey?
You do not necessarily lose your license the minute you are charged with a DWI. Typically, your license is suspended or revoked only after a conviction, which might take some time. There might also be some room for discretion when it comes down to whether your CDL should be suspended or revoked. However, that discretion lies with the Chief Administrator of the New Jersey Motor Vehicle Commission.
If you lose your license because of a DWI conviction, you might be able to get it back, but this is not guaranteed. Under N.J.S.A. § 39:3-10.16, the Director of the New Jersey Division of Motor Vehicles may reinstate your CDL if they see fit. They can also deny your reinstatement if they believe you are not a proper person to have a CDL.
Whether or not you are allowed to keep your CDL after a DWI conviction depends on the unique circumstances of your case. For example, if you have a history of DWIs or your DWI case involves a dangerous accident, the Director might be less willing to reinstate your license. This is why it is crucial that our South Jersey DWI defense attorneys help you fight the allegations against you. By avoiding a conviction, you can keep your CDL and continue doing your job and earning a living.
How to Fight DWI Charges as a CDL Driver in New Jersey
Our New Jersey DWI defense lawyers have experience representing CDL drivers and can help you fight your charges. First, we can help you challenge any chemical testing and BAC results. Chemical testing must follow very strict procedures for two reasons. First, the test must not be conducted in violation of the defendant’s rights. Second, the test must be conducted in a way that ensures the accuracy of the test results. If you submitted to chemical testing but believe the police did not follow proper protocols, we can use this information to undermine the validity of your BAC results.
In other cases, we might be able to challenge the lawfulness of the traffic stop. If the police did not have reasonable suspicion to pull you over or probable cause to arrest you, any subsequently obtained evidence (e.g., chemical testing results) may be suppressed and kept out of your trial. The more evidence we can suppress this way, the more likely we can convince prosecutors to drop your charges.
Even if we cannot avoid a conviction, our Sea Isle City DWI defense attorneys can help you mitigate the penalties. Your driving history is considered when the authorities determine whether to suspend your CDL and for how long. If prosecutors mistakenly try to use previous DWI charges too old to be considered, we can argue against your license suspension.
Call Our New Jersey DWI Defense Attorneys for a Free Case Evaluation Today
Your license and livelihood might be at stake if you are a commercial driver with a CDL facing DWI charges. Our Ocean City DWI defense attorneys can help you fight the charges and help you keep your job. For a free case review, call the Law Offices of John J. Zarych at (609) 616-4956.