What Happens When You Get a DUI as a Commercial Driver?

Holders of CDL face tough consequences in Arizona

By Judy Malmon, J.D. | Last updated on January 19, 2023

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Drinking and driving don’t mix. This is true for anyone sitting behind the wheel of a vehicle, but there are some added risks and stiffer consequences for drivers who possess a Commercial Driver’s License (CDL) driving on Arizona’s roads. Commercial drivers are held to higher standards of safety. Increased risk accompanies more time on the roads driving large, complicated vehicles, including those carrying passengers. Accidents involving commercial vehicles typically cause more, and more serious, damage
As a holder of a CDL, if you’re charged with a DUI while operating a commercial vehicle, you will be found to be impaired if you have a blood alcohol content (BAC) of .04, half the .08 level required for other drivers. If you’re driving a personal vehicle and receive a DUI charge, the .08 standard will apply, but penalties will come under your commercial licensure.

What Happens for a First Offense?

Arizona is a zero-tolerance state, and known for having steep penalties for all DUI convictions. Penalties for a standard first offense include 10 days jail time, fines, license suspension, and an interlock device installed on your vehicle for a year. The device tests a driver’s breath for alcohol before they can start the car. For CDL holders, the penalties only go up from there. A first-time DUI under a CDL is considered a Class 1 misdemeanor, the most serious category of misdemeanor, and will result in a one-year suspension period of a commercial license. The driver’s regular license will be suspended for 30 to 90 days, and they will face up to $2,500 in fines, as well as jail time of up to six months. Additional requirements may also apply, like mandatory alcohol counseling. Employers face harsh consequences, as well, seeing an increase in insurance rates and restrictions on employing drivers with a DUI record. Once fired because of a DUI, it can be hard to find another driving job, even after the suspension has run.

What Happens for a Second Offense?

If you receive a second DUI, it’s game over for your CDL in Arizona. Your commercial license will be permanently suspended. This is true for any second DUI offense, whether you received your first DUI before or after you obtained your commercial license, and applies to all classes of commercial license (Class A, B or C).

DUI for Drugs

Be aware that you can be charged under Arizona’s DUI law for the presence of the metabolite (byproduct) of drugs in your system. Arizona is one of several states that have enacted ‘per se’ prohibitions on driving privileges while drugs are present in your body in any amount, whether or not you are impaired. Legally prescribed medications are an exception to this type of prosecution, but obtaining a substance legally is not enough. Because a commercial DUI can have a devastating impact on a driver’s future, it’s crucial that you have legal counsel should you find yourself facing such a charge. Contact a law firm and an experienced DUI defense attorney will be able to assess your case for potential challenges and defenses. If you’d like more general information about this area of the law, see our DUI/DWI law overview. For a DUI while operating a commercial vehicle, you will be found to be impaired if you have a blood alcohol content of .04, half the .08 level required for other drivers.

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