Commercial drivers include people who drive for a living and need a commercial drivers' license (CDL) for their job. Many commercial drivers are truckers who haul goods throughout the Illinois region or even across the country. However, because CDL holders drive such large trucks and carry so much valuable cargo, the government keeps a close eye on commercial drivers to ensure they are abiding by the law and keeping others on the road safe.
To do this, the federal government has guidelines which suggest regulations for commercial drivers, including stringent licensure procedures and strict sanctions for violations. The State of Illinois follows these guidelines very closely, including guidelines which regulate consequences and legal procedures when a commercial driver is convicted of driving under the influence (DUI).
The sanctions for a commercial driver who has been found guilty of DUI are severe. Among the most serious penalties for a CDL DUI are lengthy license suspensions which often prevent commercial drivers from earning the necessary income to provide for themselves and their families. Because livelihoods are typically at stake, defending against a CDL DUI charge can be essential for commercial drivers who have been arrested or charged for drunk driving.
Commercial Drivers are Held to Higher Standards Under DUI Laws in Illinois
Typically, Illinois DUI law prohibits drivers from operating a motor vehicle if they have a blood alcohol content (BAC) of 0.08% or higher. This is the legal limit, and drivers who have a higher BAC are presumptively considered to be driving under the influence of alcohol.
However, individuals who have a CDL face a lower legal limit in the state of Illinois. Instead of being deemed under the influence with a BAC at or above 0.08%, CDL holders who are driving their commercial vehicles are considered inebriated if their BAC is 0.04% or above.
This is not a small difference, especially considering how prone to error chemical testing equipment--such as breathalyzers or blood tests--can be. Even a small error, like those that frequently occur when breathalyzers round up measurements, can trigger the kind of false positive that can put a commercial license at risk.
Penalties for Illinois CDL DUIs
The lower legal limit is not the only difference in Illinois' DUI laws for regular drivers and CDL holders. The penalties that commercial drivers can face if they get convicted of a DUI can result in stricter license restrictions compared to other drivers.
If a CDL holder gets arrested, charged, and convicted for a first-time DUI in Illinois, they will face a license suspension of one year. If they drive hazardous waste vehicles, though, the offense can be treated far more seriously with a possible three-year license suspension.
Second DUI offenses for CDL holders can result in a commercial license revocation, which is a permanent loss of their CDL. However, some commercial drivers in Illinois may be eligible to complete an alcohol awareness program and have their CDL license reinstated after a ten-year suspension period.
The increased suspension period is no small matter for individuals who rely on their CDL for an income. In fact, a license suspension for DUI almost always leads to a professional driver being let go by their employer. Furthermore, the blemish that a DUI puts on a driver's criminal and driving history is often enough to prevent them from getting hired again, even after the period of license suspension has elapsed.
Most importantly, these heightened penalties apply regardless of whether you were driving professionally at the time of your arrest; CDL holders will face these heightened penalties in any DUI case, even if they were driving their personal car at the time of the arrest.
Implied Consent and CDL Holders in Illinois
Even the implied consent law in Illinois is much stricter for drivers with a CDL. Illinois implied consent laws require drivers in the state to consent to a chemical BAC test – such as a breath or a blood test – if arrested on suspicion of a DUI. Refusal to take a BAC test in these circumstances violates the implied consent law and leads to an automatic license suspension.
If the driver has a commercial license, the severity of that suspension increases drastically. Non-commercial drivers can often afford the automatic license suspension that comes with an implied consent violation; in such instances, the repercussions are very inconvenient, but not necessarily life-changing. For commercial drivers, however, the suspension of their CDL can prevent them from working and earning a living while the suspension is in effect.
Defending Against an Illinois DUI Charge
If you have been accused of breaking Illinois' DUI laws and are worried about the implications it will have on your CDL, hiring a seasoned and aggressive DUI defense attorney can be the best way to protect your rights, interests, and professional future. The legal defenses that a DUI-defense lawyer can raise on your behalf can prevent the charge from becoming a conviction, and help you avoid the costly penalties that come with one.
Fortunately, if you have been charged with a DUI and have a CDL, standard DUI defenses can still be utilized for your case. These include:
- Lack of probable cause for the traffic stop
- Inaccurate, broken, poorly-administered, or miscalibrated sobriety/BAC test
- Manipulated or incorrectly administered field sobriety tests
- Violation of Fourth Amendment rights
If any of these defenses are successful, important evidence which can be used against you can be deemed inadmissible in court, severely hurting the prosecutor's case and significantly reducing the likelihood that you will be convicted of a DUI.
Furthermore, because license suspensions can impact the livelihood of CDL holders, effective DUI-defense attorneys can also represent you throughout the administrative hearing, raising arguments on your behalf to prevent or at least reduce the period of suspension.
The DUI defense lawyers at Dolci & Weiland provide aggressive, strategic legal representation to commercial drivers who have been arrested and accused of DUIs throughout DuPage County and northern Illinois. With our professional legal representation, you can rest assured that your rights and interests will be protected at every turn, whether in the courtroom and outside of it. To schedule a free consultation and discuss your CDL DUI case with a team of seasoned defense attorneys, contact our law offices 24/7 at 630-261-9098 (DuPage Office) or 312-238-9007 (Chicago Office).