When a person has a commercial driver's license in Virginia, he or she likely relies on that license to make a living. Virginia has strict DUI laws, especially when a person is driving a commercial vehicle while under the influence of drugs or alcohol.
Commercial DUI penalties can be very severe, but with the help of experienced Virginia DUI attorney Bryan J. Jones, you can fight the charges against you to protect your right to drive and your ability to keep working and making a living.
Virginia's Law on Commercial DUI
Under Va. Code § 46.2-241.24, a person can be charged with driving or operating a commercial motor vehicle while under the influence of drugs or alcohol. This offense can be committed in one of three different ways:
- driving or operating the commercial motor vehicle under the influence of alcohol or drugs;
- driving or operating the commercial motor vehicle with a blood alcohol content (BAC) of 0.04% or higher; or
- driving a commercial motor vehicle with any amount of alcohol in the driver's system.
What the Prosecutor Must Prove in Commercial DUI Cases in Virginia
To prove that a person committed an offense under the commercial DUI statute, the Virginia prosecutor must prove that the alleged offender:
- drove or operated
- any commercial motor vehicle
- while under the influence of drugs or alcohol.
Drove or Operated
Operating is driving or being in actual physical control of the commercial motor vehicle. This could include times when the operator is not even driving but is behind the wheel of the vehicle and the key is in the ignition..
A commercial motor vehicle is defined by statute, in Va. Code § 46.2-341.4. Typical commercial motor vehicles include:
- gas trucks;
- large buses;
- vehicles that weigh more than 10,000 lbs.; or
- a vehicle used to transport hazardous materials.
Penalties for Commercial DUI in Virginia
If convicted under the commercial DUI statute, a person is guilty of a Class 1 misdemeanor. A person faces the following penalties:
- up to a maximum of 12 months (1 year) in jail; and/or
- a maximum fine of up to $2,500.
Jail sentences and fines become mandatory for second and subsequent offenses. A driver will also be disqualified from driving or operating a commercial motor vehicle for a certain amount of time, depending on if it is a first offense or if there are any prior convictions. If disqualified from driving a commercial vehicle, the driver is effectively out of his or her job.
After a conviction of your first commercial DUI, DUI, DUI Maiming, or Breathalyzer refusal, you can be disqualified from driving a commercial motor vehicle for one year. To note, a driver will also be disqualified in Virginia if he or she was convicted of DUI in another state.
A driver will be disqualified for life if he or she has been convicted of any two or more of the following offenses:
- Commercial Vehicle DUI;
- DUI Maiming;
- Breath or blood test refusal for a DUI;
- Failing to stop at the scene of an accident;
- Driving a commercial motor vehicle in violation of an out-of-service order;
- Driving a commercial motor vehicle while the vehicle is disqualified;
- Driving a commercial motor vehicle in violation of a revocation or suspension;
- Using a commercial motor vehicle or other vehicle to commit a felony.
There are other situations that can impact the penalties a commercial driver faces, and these situations include whether or not he or she was transporting hazardous materials, his or her BAC was 0.04% or more, DUI even if not in a commercial car at the time of the DUI, and when the driver have any detection of alcohol.
Transporting Hazardous Materials
If a commercial vehicle is transporting hazardous materials at the time of the offense, the driver will be disqualified for 3 years.
The driver's regular Virginia driver's license may also be suspended for up to 12 months (1 year) in addition to the commercial driver's license suspension.
0.04% or More
If a driver of a commercial vehicle has a BAC of 0.04% or more, he or she is guilty of a Class 3 misdemeanor in Virginia. A conviction may result in the following penalties:
- fine of up to $500;
- disqualified for driving for a period of 1 year;
- driver not allowed to obtain a restricted license during the revocation period; and
- non-commercial driver's license also revoked for 1 year.
Non-Commercial Vehicle DUI
A driver who refused to take a breathalyzer or who is convicted of DUI or DUI maiming while in a non-commercial vehicle will still have his or her commercial driver's license suspended for a one-year period.
Any Amount of Alcohol
If a driver has any amount of alcohol in his or her system, it is considered a traffic infraction. There is an immediate 24-hour "out-of-service" order imposed on the driver.
Defending Your Rights
If you are a commercial driver, and you face a DUI conviction, your rights and your livelihood are at risk. Even if you were only driving your regular vehicle, you could lose the ability to drive a commercial vehicle for one or more years. The impact on your employment and your life will be significant.