The occupation most heavily and immediately impacted by a DUI arrest is that of truck driver. That is because of the severe licensing ramifications that may accompany a DUI prosecution, whether or not there is even a conviction for DUI. The heart of the concern is the commercial driver’s license or CDL. Because of federal regulations most states, including Washington, require the revocation of a CDL upon either a DUI conviction or an administrative finding that there was a chemical test above the legal limit or a refusal to submit to chemical testing. But the rules that govern this area of DUI law can be confusing, draconian, and duplicative. In this section we will do our best to break down all that you need to know, but don’t rely solely on what is written here. Contact a DUI lawyer well versed in the area of CDL law as soon as possible. Action or inaction may very well mean the difference in whether or not you can retain your CDL.
Administrative CDL Revocation
An administrative revocation of one’s CDL can occur for a variety of reasons. If someone who is a CDL holder is arrested for DUI and one of the following circumstances apply, the Washington State Department of Licensing will provide a notice of intent to revoke the CDL, and in most cases, the personal driver’s license as well:
- Driving a personal vehicle and providing a breath of blood sample over the legal limit for alcohol or marijuana.
- Driving a personal vehicle and refusing to provide a breath or blood sample as requested by law
- Driving a commercial vehicle with a breath or blood alcohol content of .04 or higher
- Driving a commercial vehicle with any detectable level of marijuana
- Driving a commercial vehicle and refusing to provide a breath or blood sample
Once the notice of intent to suspend is provided, usually by the arresting officer, you will have 20 days to request a hearing to contest the suspension. It is possible, if not likely, that you will need to request two hearings, one to contest the personal license suspension and another to contest the CDL suspension. Failure to request the hearings in a timely fashion will result in automatic license suspensions. Further, when the violation occurs as a result of driving a personal vehicle, the DOL will send out a separate notice of intent to suspend the CDL at a later date. Make sure the DOL has an accurate address of record on file so you don’t miss this notification.
DUI Conviction and CDL Revocation
The State of Washington conducts a two pronged attack on the CDL in DUI cases. If the DOL does not succeed in suspending the CDL pursuant to the administrative action described above, it will do so if the criminal DUI charge results in a DUI conviction. Whether the conviction was obtained by way of a plea or after trial, the sentencing court would notify the DOL. Shortly thereafter, usually within three weeks to two months, the DOL would send out the letter of suspension regarding both the CDL and personal license.
CDL and Deferred Prosecution
The Washington DOL has for some time treated entry into a deferred prosecution program as if it were a conviction for purposes of CDL suspension. There was a time when entry into a deferred prosecution would protect the CDL from suspension, so long as it hadn’t previously been revoked administratively for refusing a breath or blood test. Now, if a CDL holder enters in a program of deferred prosecution, upon notification by the court, the DOL will send out the same notice of suspension as if there had been an actual DUI conviction.
Duplicative CDL Suspensions
As a general rule, if the DOL revokes a commercial driver’s license administratively AND there is a DUI conviction, the CDL revocations will run concurrently. This means that, essentially, the CDL would not be revoked twice and day for day credit would be given for the earliest revocation already served. There is an exception, however. If the administrative suspension is for “refusing” to give a breath or blood sample, that is considered to be under a different category of revocation than that of a DUI conviction. In such a case, no credit would be given for the first revocation. If the suspensions occurred at the time they would essentially run concurrently, meaning one would not stack on top of the other. But, if there was a great period of time between the administrative refusal revocation and an ultimate conviction, the combined period of revocation could be significantly longer. Theoretically, one could lose the CDL administratively under such a scenario and get it back only to lose it again when the DUI conviction was entered. If your CDL is being threatened due to a refusal based DUI, use extra caution.
Duration of CDL Revocation
For a first instance of CDL revocation, the period of revocation is one (1) year. That applies both to DUI and administrative revocations. For a second violation, the CDL would be suspended for life. A lifetime suspension can be reduced to a minimum of 10 years upon a successful request made to the DOL. There also exist a number of other non-DUI related CDL suspensions. For a complete list, review RCW 46.25.090. And finally, once the period of revocation has run its course, the CDL is not automatically reinstated. The driver will need to retake all applicable CDL testing before a new commercial license will be issued.
Facing a DUI charge can be daunting in and of itself. If one’s career is dependent upon the possession of a valid commercial driver’s license, the experience will be even more anxiety inducing. If you or someone you know finds themselves in this situation, contact the DUI lawyers at Milios Defense as soon as possible. We will explore and exhaust every possible option in defending you and protecting your CDL.