Commercial Driver License and DWI in New York

We understand that there are many individuals in New York who are holders of a Commercial Driver’s License (“CDL”), and that those individuals ability to earn a living depends on their having a valid CDL. Many attorneys do not properly advise their clients on the effects of a DWI or other conviction on a CDL because they simply have not taken the time to become familiar with this difficult area of law. Therefore, the following sections are designed to help CDL holders protect themselves by making them aware of the policies, penalties, and restrictions that New York has enacted regarding the ability to drive commercial vehicles if facing a DWI charge.

What is a Commercial Vehicle?

Let’s start with the definition of a commercial vehicle. Vehicle and Traffic Law section 501(a)(1) states that a class A, B, or C driver’s license which bears an H, P, or X, endorsement authorizes the holder of such license to operate a commercial vehicle. In New York there are many vehicles that fall within the category of commercial vehicle. The most common categories are as follows:

  • Any vehicle that has a gross vehicle weight rating of more than 26,000 pounds
  • Any vehicle designed to transport 15 or more passengers in addition to the driver
  • Any vehicle defined by the Vehicle and Traffic Law as a Bus
  • Any vehicle used to transport hazardous materials

In addition to the types of vehicles listed above, vehicles having a gross vehicle weight rating of more than 10,000 pounds that are used by a business to transport property, including tow trucks with a gross vehicle weight rating of more than 8,600 pounds, are also considered commercial vehicles in New York.

How the Law Concerning DWI and CDL Holder’s Has Changed

Many people have the mistaken belief that a Commercial Driver’s License can only be affected in relation to DWI offenses if a person is stopped by police while driving a commercial vehicle, such as a roofing company work truck. In fact, prior to September 2005, this was exactly the case. However after September 2005, the New York State Assembly enacted stricter laws that scrutinize the conduct of CDL holders above and beyond that of other drivers. In fact a DWI offense can now affect a CDL even if the offense was committed in a non-commercial vehicle. It is important that CDL holders understand that they have been singled out, they need to be even more cautious while driving on the roads in New York.

Situations That Will Affect The Validity of a CDL

Prior to September 2005, an individual’s CDL would only be affected if that person was convicted of a DWI offense, or crime involving the use of a vehicle, while actually in a commercial vehicle. After September 2005, a CDL will be affected where the holder is convicted of a DWI offense, or crime involving the use of a vehicle, regardless of whether the holder is driving a commercial vehicle at the time of the offense. This means that an individual’s CDL will be revoked for a conviction that occurred while the individual was driving a non-commercial vehicle.

Specific Offenses Involving the Use of a Commercial Vehicle

In addition to increasing the number situations where a CDL may be affected, in 2009, the New York State Assembly also updated the DWI offenses that are specific to driving a commercial vehicle. Vehicle and Traffic Law sections 1192(5) and 1192(6) make it an offense to drive a commercial vehicle with a specific blood alcohol content (“BAC”). It is extremely important for CDL holders to be aware that the legal BAC limits for these two offenses are less than the legal BAC limits for conventional DWI offenses.

Vehicle and Traffic Law section 1192(5), known as “Commercial Motor Vehicles: Per Se Level I” makes it a violation level offense to operate a commercial vehicle with a BAC of .04 to .06. This is essentially the commercial vehicle equivalent of Vehicle and Traffic Law section 1192(1) Driving While Ability Impaired. The DMV categorizes Driving While Ability Impaired as driving with a BAC of .05 to .07. The important distinction between the two offenses is that CDL holders are now held to a higher standard than other drivers on the road, because CDL holders may be charged with a violation for having a BAC of .04 to .06, while non-CDL holders may be charged with a violation for having a BAC of .05 to .07.

Vehicle and Traffic Law section 1192(6), known as “Commercial Motor Vehicles: Per Se Level II” makes it a misdemeanor to operate a commercial vehicle with a BAC of .06 to .08. Therefore, unlike non-CDL holders, who are not subject to criminal charges when driving with a BAC under .08, a CDL holder may now be charged with a crime, and subjected to the penalties that follow, for driving with a BAC under .08.

Penalties Affecting CDL’s

In Regards to DWI and related offenses under Article 31 of the Vehicle and Traffic Law (Article 31 encompasses Driving While Intoxicated and Driving While Impaired by Drug offenses, as well as refusing to submit to chemical tests), CDL Holders in New York face penalties specific to their CDL in addition to all the other penalties that non-CDL holders face. These penalties affect the validity of a CDL and/or regular driver’s license. CDL holders in New York need to be aware that they can be charged with the specific offenses relating only to CDL’s, and at the same time be charged with all the other non-CDL DWI offenses contained in Vehicle and Traffic Law section 1192. For example, a CDL holder may be charged with violating Vehicle and Traffic Law 1192(2), Driving While Intoxicated Per Se (for having a BAC of .08) and at the same time, be charged with Vehicle and Traffic Law 1192(6), Driving a Commercial Vehicle with a BAC of .06 to .08. Please find further explanations of penalties below.

CDL Holder “First Time Offender”

A CDL holder who is currently charged with any offense under Vehicle and Traffic Law Article 31 (Article 31 encompasses Driving While Intoxicated and Driving While Impaired by Drug offenses, as well as refusing to submit to chemical tests), is considered to be a first time offender if that individual has never before been convicted, or found to have committed the following:

  • Refusing to Submit to a Chemical Test under Vehicle and Traffic Law section 1194
  • Any DWI related offense under Vehicle and Traffic Law section 1192
  • Vehicle and Traffic Law sections 600(1) and 600(2): Leaving the scene of an accident where there has been property damage or injury
  • Any felony involving the use of a vehicle

If a CDL holder who is currently charged with an offense under Article 31 of the Vehicle and Traffic Law, specifically under Section 1192 (DWI and related offenses) has never committed any of the above, then they will be found to be a first time offender. As such that individual’s CDL will be revoked for one year, and three years if the individual was transporting hazardous material.

Furthermore, if in the course of being charged with an offense under Vehicle and Traffic Law section 1192, a CDL holder refuses a chemical test, such as a breath test, urine test, or blood test, then that individual’s CDL is revoked 18 months.

CDL holders also need to be aware that along with their CDL being revoked for a first time offense, their regular driver’s license will be revoked or suspended as well, though not for the same amount of time. For example, if a CDL holder is convicted of Driving While Ability Impaired by Alcohol, under Vehicle and Traffic Law section 1192(1) their CDL will be revoked for one year, while their regular driver’s license will only be suspended for 90 days.

CDL Holder Subsequent Offenses

A CDL holder who has been previously found to have committed any of the following offenses listed below is subject to harsher penalties upon a subsequent conviction of the any of the offenses listed below:

  • Refusing to Submit to a Chemical Test under Vehicle and Traffic Law section 1194
  • Any DWI related offense under Vehicle and Traffic Law section 1192
  • Vehicle and Traffic Law sections 600(1) and 600(2): Leaving the scene of an accident where there has been property damage or injury
  • Any felony involving the use of a vehicle

Unlike a regular driver’s license, which is affected by prior DWI related offenses that occurred within 10 years of a current charge or conviction, a CDL is affected by any prior DWI related offense listed above, no matter how long ago it was committed.

Upon a finding that a CDL holder has committed two of the above mentioned offenses, and that the offenses arose out of different incidents, that individual’s CDL will be revoked for ten years.

Upon a finding that a CDL holder has committed three of the above mentioned offenses, and that each offense arose out of a different incident, that individual’s CDL will be revoked permanently.

No Hardship or Conditional Privileges Available for CDL’s

Many people are familiar with the terms “hardship license” and “conditional license”, even though they may not know when these types of driving privileges apply. Normally a person who possesses a regular driver’s license, and is charged with or convicted of a DWI related offense, will be given hardship driving privileges, and/or a conditional license. These types of driving privileges allow an individual to drive for purposes of attending work, attending school, going to medical appointments, or caring for a family member. This is not the case with a CDL, unfortunately New York does not allow any hardship or conditional driving privileges in regards to the ability to drive a commercial vehicle. A CDL holder will still be eligible for these privileges in regards to their privileges to drive a regular vehicle, but once charged with and or convicted of a DWI related offense, an individual will not be able to have privileges to drive a Commercial vehicle until the resolution of their case, and the end of the sentence imposed.

Conclusion

When an individual possesses a New York Commercial Driver’s License they are held to a higher standard, and face stricter penalties than other drivers on the road. As a result it is important that CDL holders understand the laws that apply to them so that they may protect themselves against the harsh consequences of violating such laws. In any event, a CDL holder should never take the risk of consuming even the smallest amount of alcohol and driving a commercial vehicle. Furthermore a CDL holder should under no circumstance, plead guilty to a DWI related offense without first consulting with a qualified attorney.

The exclusive purpose of this article is educational and it is not intended as either legal advice or a general solution to any specific legal problem. Corporate offices for Nave DWI Defense Attorneys are located at 269 W. Jefferson St.; Syracuse, New York 13202; Telephone No.: (315) 473-0899. Prior results do not guarantee a similar outcome. Attorney Advertising.

2018-06-27T20:46:57+00:00