Commercial drivers are held to a higher standard when it comes to charges of driving while intoxicated (DWI) in New York state. Not only is it easier for holders of a commercial driver's license (CDL) to break the law, a conviction for DWI comes with harsher penalties and can have a greater impact on the driver's livelihood.
COMMERCIAL DRIVER'S LICENSES
In New York, under VTL 501-a (1), a commercial driver is considered to be anyone who has a class A, B, or C driver's license, together with an H, P, or X endorsement.
Importantly, it is this license that makes a driver a commercial driver, not the type of vehicle they are driving. This distinction is crucial to make because CDL holders face heightened scrutiny under New York's DWI law, even if they are pulled over while driving a non-commercial vehicle, or even their personal vehicle.
A HIGHER STANDARD FOR COMMERCIAL DRIVERS
New York's DWI law typically prohibits people from driving when their blood alcohol content (BAC) is at or above .08%. This is the legal limit for drunk driving, and having a BAC of .08% or going over it is per se illegal in the state of New York.
Commercial drivers, however, have a much lower legal BAC limit: .04%.
PENALTIES COMPARED BETWEEN A REGULAR DRIVER'S LICENSE AND CDL
Not only do CDL holders have to comply with a far more stringent BAC level, they also face steeper penalties for a first-time offense in New York. For a holder of a regular driver's license your license may be revoked for only 6 months; however, if you have a CDL your license will be revoked for one year. If you were driving hazardous material your CDL will be revoked for 3 years. If you have a regular driver's license you may qualify for hardship driving privileges and a Conditional Driver's License. However, there are no hardship driving privileges or Conditional Driver's License for CDL operators. Without the option of a restricted or conditional license, this can be a death knell for the career of a professional driver who relies on their license for their livelihood. A subsequent DWI conviction for a CDL operator can result in a permanent revocation of your CDL.
EMPLOYMENT CONSEQUENCES OF A DWI CONVICTION
Worse, CDL holders often rely on their ability to drive to make a living. Whether they are truck drivers, bus drivers, or drivers of hazardous waste material tankers, commercial drivers need to keep their right to drive intact and unblemished. Particularly in today's highly-competitive workforce, even a first time DWI offense – even one deep in your past – can be enough for potential employers to pass over you for another job candidate.
KENNETH PUIG: DWI-DEFENSE LAWYER FOR CDL HOLDERS
If you have a CDL and have been accused of DWI in New York, you need legal representation. Kenneth Puig represents commercial drivers who have been charged with drunk driving in the Hudson Valley area. Contact him online for the legal help you need.