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Vehicle Code § 23152(d)

DUI for Commercial Motor Vehicle Drivers

In California, the standard legal limit for Blood Alcohol Content (BAC) level is less than 0.08%. Drivers with a BAC of 0.08% or in excess of that shall be charged with Driving Under the Influence (DUI) of alcohol.

However, a certain class of drivers will be subjected to a lower legal limit by reason of public policy. This is where Vehicle Code § 23152(d) comes in. Vehicle Code § 23152(d) provides for a lower BAC limit of 0.04% or higher for motorists driving a commercial motor vehicle. If a driver belonging to the said class is found to be driving beyond the limit, he may necessarily face the consequences including criminal penalties and suspension of his commercial driver’s license.

Criminal Conviction for DUI with Commercial Driver’s License

Penalties imposed for a conviction under this particular section will increase with subsequent convictions. But first-time offenders may face penalties including six (6) months in county jail, payment of a fine ranging from $390 to $1,000, enrolling in a DUI school for a 3-month court-approved alcohol education program, and suspension of California driver’s license for one year.

For a second conviction, drivers with a commercial driver’s license will be perpetually disqualified from obtaining a commercial driver’s license [Vehicle Code § 15302 VC].

Driving under the Influence which Results to Injury

Commercial motorists who are found to be driving under the influence and caused injury to a third party may be charged with Vehicle Code § 23153 under the California’s law on DUI causing injury. This offense is considered a wobbler offense, i.e., it can be charged as either misdemeanor or a felony, at the election of the prosecutor assigned.

If charged as a misdemeanor, penalties upon conviction may include the following:

  • Three to five years of informal ("summary") probation;
  • Five (5) days to a year in county jail;
  • Payment of a fine ranging from $390 to $5,000;
  • A three-, nine-, eighteen-, or thirty-month court-approved alcohol or drug education program;
  • A one-year or three-year driver's license suspension; or
  • Payment of victim restitution to victims [Vehicle Code § 23556 – 23566].

Felony convictions could lead to more serious consequences including incarceration at the state prison. Apart from state imprisonment, one or a combination of the following penalties can also be imposed:

  • Payment of a fine ranging from $1,015 to $5,000;
  • DUI school for 18 or 30 months;
  • Three (3) years of Habitual Traffic Offender (HTO) status under VC § 14601.3; and
  • Revocation of a California driver's license for five (5) years [ Vehicle Code § 23556 – 23566].

Refusal to take Chemical Tests by Commercial Drivers

Refusal to take a chemical test is not necessarily a crime in California. However, refusal to take either blood or breath test following a lawful DUI arrest can result in an enhanced penalty, in the event of conviction for a separate crime of driving under the influence. In addition, the driver’s license shall be suspended by the California Department of Motor Vehicles, without due regard to the conviction or acquittal in the related criminal case [Vehicle Code § 15300(a)]

However, if the defendant is found to have been previously convicted of driving under the influence, the driver may face increased jail time. Additional penalties for refusal will be as follows:

  • 48 extra hours in jail; six extra months of required DUI school and one-year license suspension for first-time DUI offenders;
  • 96 extra hours in jail and two-year license suspension for DUI offenders with one previous DUI conviction;
  • 10 extra days in jail three-year license suspension for DUI offenders with two previous DUI convictions; or
  • 18 extra days in jail three-year license suspension for DUI offenders with three or more previous DUI convictions.

Restricted License after California commercial DUI conviction

During the suspension period, a driver cannot obtain a restricted license to drive a commercial vehicle.

However, the driver may be able to obtain a restricted license to drive a non-commercial vehicle by downgrading to a non-commercial Class C (car) or Class M (motorcycle) license.

A restricted license allows the driver to do the following:

  • Driving to and from work (other than as a commercial driver);
  • Taking himself/herself and other family members to the doctor if they have a serious medical problem; and/or
  • If no public or school bus transportation is available, driving a minor dependent to and from school.
  • Meanwhile, an IID-restricted license allows the driver to drive anywhere with an IIDinstalled in the vehicle.

Legal Defenses against DUI charges

The approach to challenging DUI charges may vary on a case-to-case basis, depending on the unique set of facts. One of the most effective ways to do this is to contest the accuracy of the DUI chemical test. Chemical blood or breath test results may appear to be unmistakable proof. However, they are frequently inaccurate for a variety of reasons. This is especially true when the arresting officer failed to follow the strict chemical test procedures outlined in Title 17 of the California Code of Regulations. In such case, serious doubts may be raised as to the accuracy of the results. Other reasons may include the defendant suffering from GERD, acid reflux, or heartburn, which may all cause falsely high BAC readings; or the driver's blood alcohol level may have been rising at the time of the chemical test which implies that the driver's BAC was lower when he or she drove.

These issues can be complex and can generate unfavorable outcomes if hire an attorney not sufficiently focused in this area of the law, or otherwise ill-equipped to represent you. Our firm has decades of experience successfully representing people with legal matters same or similar to yours. The sooner you contact us for your consultation with one of our attorneys, the more you will avoid difficulties and problems that may arise hiring a lawyer last-minute or when it’s close to your hearing or deadline

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