Commercial DWI in Texas Law
Lots of things we use are delivered by trucks, and people travel on large buses. But these vehicles can be risky to drive because they’re so huge. To drive a truck, you need a special license called a CDL.
However, obtaining your CDL alone is not enough. You also have to show you’re a safe and responsible driver by keeping a clean driving history.
In Texas, business drivers may face harsher penalties than regular drivers if they are found to be operating a commercial vehicle. Losing your CDL could result in you losing your job if you have one. In addition, a DWI on your record may make it more difficult for you to get employment even after you obtain your CDL back.
Understanding the Basics of Commercial DWI
First things first, what exactly is a commercial DWI, and how does it differ from a regular DWI in Texas?
The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) deals with drunk driving. These rules have higher standards for commercial drivers compared to regular ones, as per Transportation Code § 522.081. Commercial drivers have a legal limit of BAC of .04%, which is half of the .08% limit for regular drivers.
If a commercial driver’s blood alcohol content (BAC) is 0.04% or higher, they can’t do safety-sensitive jobs, like driving a huge truck. If a commercial driver gets a commercial DWI, they won’t have their commercial driver’s license for a year.
Commercial drivers can also lose their driving privileges for failing a drug test or saying no to a chemical test. The FMCSA says that refusing to take a drug or alcohol test is usually treated the same as failing the test.
Commercial DWI Penalties and Consequences
If a commercial driver in Texas gets a DWI, the criminal punishments are the same as for regular drivers. But the difference is that a commercial DWI can cause your commercial driver’s license to be suspended.
- DWI is a Class B misdemeanor in Texas, and that means you can go to jail for at least three days, up to 180 days. You might also have to pay a fine of up to $2,000.
- Now, if your blood alcohol level is high, 0.15 or more, it becomes a Class A misdemeanor. This means you could go to jail for up to a year and have to pay a fine of up to $4,000.
One Year CDL Suspension
If you’re a commercial driver and you get your first DWI, you’ll have your commercial driver’s license suspended for a year. This happens if:
- You drive a vehicle after drinking alcohol or using drugs.
- You say no to a test that checks how much alcohol or drugs are in your system while driving in a public place.
- The test shows your blood, breath, or urine had 0.04 or more alcohol or drugs while driving a commercial vehicle in public.
- The test shows your blood alcohol level was 0.08 or more while driving a regular vehicle in public.
Three-year CDL Suspension
If a person with a commercial driver’s license (CDL) gets a DWI and they were carrying hazardous materials that need special signs on their vehicle, their CDL will be taken away for three years. This happens if:
- They are found guilty of driving under the influence of alcohol while transporting these hazardous materials, or if they say no to a test checking their alcohol level or drug use.
- If a test of their blood, breath, or urine finds an alcohol level of 0.04 or more or drugs in their system while they were carrying dangerous stuff with special signs. Or, if they were driving a regular vehicle and their blood alcohol level was 0.08 or more in public.
Lifetime CDL Suspension
Under Texas laws, in Title 7, Chapter 522.081, if you have a CDL and you get charged with DWI, you can lose your ability to drive a commercial vehicle for life if:
- You’re convicted of DWI two or more times for the specific offenses mentioned in the laws. Or it could be a mix of those offenses from different situations.
- You use your vehicle for a felony related to things like making, selling, or having illegal drugs. Or if you use your vehicle for a crime involving transporting or hiding an undocumented immigrant.
A Commercial DWI in Texas means extra fees called DWI surcharges. You have to pay them every year for three years to keep your CDL. If you fail to do so, your CDL will be revoked.
Here are the surcharges for Texas DWIs:
- First-time DWI: $1,000 per year ($3,000 total)
- Second or more DWI: $1,500 per year ($4,500 total)
- First-time DWI with a high blood alcohol level (0.16 or more): $2,000 per year ($6,000 total)
Arrested? Don’t Plea, Call Me!
When you get arrested for driving drunk as a commercial driver, it’s crucial to hire a defense attorney who will work hard to defend your rights.
A DWI conviction can harm your finances and job, even if your CDL is at risk for a year. Employers might hesitate to hire a driver with a DWI on their record. Texas Criminal Defense Group: Clearing your case or reducing penalties for a speedy return to the road.