Although getting convicted of driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol is a serious situation regardless of what you are driving, it is especially serious when you are driving a commercial vehicle. You can kill people when driving a passenger vehicle under the influence, but you have a far greater capacity to kill, damage property, or cause serious bodily injuries with a bigger type of vehicle. Buses, tractor trailers, large tractors, and similar vehicles have a tremendous weight capacity, meaning that they can inflict far more damage when they are not driven or operated by someone with a very clear mind and quick reflexes.
Driver's License Suspension
There are separate types of driver's licenses for commercial vehicles versus passenger vehicles, and the penalty related to driving privileges is also different if you are convicted of driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol. For passenger vehicles, you lose your license for ninety days (about three months) in most cases, unless you refused the BAC testing, which tacks on another nine months or more. For commercial vehicles, the minimum suspension for a first offense is one year, without any aggravating factors. Transporting hazardous materials (HAZMAT) is considered one of these factors, and it can triple the length of the suspension.
The news gets even worse if you've been previously convicted of DUI. A second offense DUI means you lose your passenger car license for 3 years. Unfortunately for those who possess a CDL, a second offense DUI means a LIFE TIME loss of your CDL privileges. That means you're going to have to look for a new line of work; and in this economy, that's a tough and uncertain proposition.
The long-term penalty if you are convicted is serious, but you could lose a paycheck even in the beginning with a commercial DUI arrest. In Maine, if you are arrested for DUI and a Breathalyzer or similar BAC test shows that you have alcohol or drugs in your system you will not be allowed to continue with your delivery/transport for a minimum of twenty-four hours.
Another focal point in a DUI conviction is the monetary fines that have to be paid prior to reinstating your driver's license, whether it is a CDL or standard driver's license. These fees vary based on many different factors for both types of vehicles, such as aggravating factors, repeat offenses, refusal to submit to Breathalyzer or standardized testing, and other things. If you decide to violate the out-of-service order following your arrest, there are additional fines added as well, ranging from $1,100 to over $2,000.
It is important to keep in mind that if you are arrested for DUI in your personal vehicle, but hold a CDL, the same commercial penalties still apply. In other words, you cannot drive your commercial vehicle for twenty-four hours, still face the increased monetary fines, and lose your CDL for one to three years on a first offense conviction or BMV suspension. A DUI is considered a Major Traffic Offense, and under the Motor Carrier Safety Improvement Act (MCSIA) that was implemented in 2005 all of these offenses affect your CDL and your regular driver's license even if you are driving a passenger vehicle at the time of the offense.