Commercial Vehicle DUI Law in California – Vehicle Code 23152(d) VC
California Vehicle Code 23152(d) VC defines the commercial DUI law and prohibits the driver of a commercial vehicle to have a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of 0.04% or higher.
This statute applies to anyone with a commercial driver's licenses, such as a truck driver or another profession.
If you are charged with driving under the influence, then you will have several issues to consider.
California Vehicle Code 23152(a) VC is the general statute that makes it a crime to drive under the influence.
Vehicle Code 23152(b) VC prohibits anyone to drive a vehicle with a blood-alcohol level of 0.08 percent or higher.
Of course., these statutes apply to all people in the state of California who are driving a vehicle, no matter the type of license they possess.
As noted, Vehicle Code 23152(d) VC makes it a crime for anyone carrying a commercial driver's license from driving a commercial vehicle with a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of 0.04 percent or greater.
A California commercial driver license permits people to drive different classes of commercial vehicles.
For instance, a Class A and Class B driver's licenses allow someone to operate a commercial vehicle, and a Class C permits someone to carry hazardous material.
If you are charged with a VC 23152(d) commercial DUI, the prosecution will have to prove their case in the same general manner they would for a traditional driving under the influence case.
For example, you should expect them to use the results of the breath or blood test, field sobriety tests, and arresting police officer testimony.
Our Los Angeles criminal defense attorneys are reviewing the laws below.
What is a Commercial Driver's License?
Typically, if you want to drive a vehicle that weigh 26,000 pounds or more, carry 15 passengers or more, or carry hazardous material, you will have to acquire a commercial driver's license, which is commonly known as a “CDL.”
The Federal Motor Carriers Act controls the federal highway funds on individual state compliance with federal commercial vehicle license regulations. Like other states, California also follows the federal requirements.
In order to obtain a CDL, you will have to satisfy certain skill and fitness requirements, and have a satisfactory past driving record and no driving under the influence convictions.
What are Special DUI Hazards for a Commercial Driver?
The driver of a commercial vehicle normally faces two special potential hazards under the state's DUI laws.
The first hazard is clearly the much lower legal blood alcohol limit, which is called the blood alcohol concentration, or simply “BAC.”
Put simply, a commercial vehicle driver could be convicted of DUI under circumstances where they would have not been convicted if they were driving a traditional vehicle.
A commercial vehicle BAC limit is 0.04% or higher, where a driver of a traditional vehicle has a BAC limit of 0.08% or higher.
The second hazard deals with the impact of a driving under the influence conviction on the commercial driver's license.
For example, any type DUI offense, whether driving a commercial vehicle or non-commercial vehicle will have a negative impact on their license.
Put simply, commercial vehicle drivers must follow stricter rules.
What is the Lower DUI Blood Alcohol Limits?
As noted, in the state of California, driving under the influence charges are typically filed under Vehicle Code 23152 VC.
This statute applies to drivers operating a non-commercial vehicle and requires intoxication as an element of the crime and assumes the BAC was at 0.08% or greater.
Vehicle Code 23152(d), a commercial driver DUI, as noted, lowers the 0.08% minimum to just 0.04% for someone operating a commercial vehicle and defined as the following:
- “It's a crime for anyone who has 0.04% or higher, by weight, of alcohol in their blood to drive a commercial motor vehicle, as defined in Section 15210.”
Readers should note that a 0.04% blood alcohol content (BAC) might not even show outward signs of being intoxicated.
VC 23153(d), however, assumes intoxication from any showing of 0.04 or greater level.
Put simply, the prosecutor might not have any other evidence that the low level of intoxication impacted the way the defendant was driving their commercial vehicle.
Vehicle Code 23152(d) also states that law enforcement authorities can use a blood alcohol measure determined within 3 hours after the driving in order to prove the requisite illegal 0.04% BAC:
- “while prosecuting someone under subsection (d), it's a rebuttable presumption that anybody who had 0.04% or higher, by weight, of alcohol in their blood when driving, if the they had 0.04% or higher of alcohol in their blood when performing a chemical test within 3 hours after driving.”
Driving under the influence of drugs is covered under Vehicle Code 23152(f) and applies to anyone who is driving a commercial vehicle.
How Does a DUI Impact a Commercial Driver's License?
The state of California follows federal regulations for the suspension of a CDL license after a driving under the influence conviction.
Federal regulation suspends a commercial driver's license for one year for either operating a commercial vehicle with a BAC of 0.04 or higher, or if they were operating a non-commercial personal vehicle at 0.08% or higher BAC.
This means the driver will temporarily lose their CDL if they are convicted of driving under the influence a commercial or non-commercial vehicle.
If you refuse the sobriety test, it will also result in one-year suspension of your CDL.
If you are a driver of hazardous materials who are convicted of a DUI or refuse a chemical test, your CDL will be suspended for three years.
Under 49 CFR § 383.51 and California state law, if you are convicted of a second DUI, it will result in the permanent loss of your CDL, and called a “disqualification of drivers.”
Further in most cases, a commercial driver who loses their CDL will also lose their job. Clearly, employers can't allow a driver with a suspended or revoked CDL to operate their commercial vehicles.
Federal regulations mandate drivers to report a DUI to their commercial employer. They must also notify their employers the same day they lose their CDL to a DUI arrest or conviction.
What are the Penalties?
If convicted of a commercial vehicle DUI, the penalties are the same as for a traditional driving under the influence case, but Vehicle Code 15300 VC increase the driver's license suspension from the normal 6 months to one year for a commercial DUI.
Vehicle Code 23538 VC and similar laws penalize a first DUI with a sentence of:
- up to six months in jail,
- a fine between $390 and $1,000,
- probation for 3 to 5 years, and
- 3 to 9 months of education programs.
Put simply, the penalties for a commercial DUI conviction in California can include:
- commercial driver's license suspension for one year;
- a suspension from driving any non-commercial vehicles;
- fines, probation, and some time in county jail;
- community service hours;
- requirement to install an ignition interlock device on your car;
- court-ordered mandatory alcohol education classes;
Further, a DUI conviction will normally result in much higher insurance rates and you could even lose your employment.
Readers should also note that a commercial vehicle driver not eligible for a restricted license and a subsequent DUI conviction will often result in the permanent loss of your CDL.
What are the Defenses for a Commercial Vehicle DUI Case?
Anyone who was charged with a Vehicle Code 23152(d) commercial vehicle driver DUI can use the same common defenses as non-commercial drivers.
Some of the best defense strategies to a driving under the influence case include the following:
- police lacked probable cause to pull your over on a traffic stop, known as an unlawful police stop;
- police didn't follow proper procedures during your arrest;
- results of the DUI chemical tests were not accurate;
- defendant did not drive the vehicle; or
- defendant was not intoxicated or beyond the legal BAC limit.
Some commercial vehicle drivers will pursue a plea agreement where they can get their DUI charged reduced to a lesser offense, such a wet reckless or dry reckless charge that carries lighter penalties.
Put simply, you will need an experienced DUI lawyer to have the best chance at a favorable outcome.
Through prefiling intervention, we might be able to negotiate with law enforcement and the prosecutor to avoid the formal filing of criminal charges before court.
Eisner Gorin LLP is located in Los Angeles County and you can contact our firm for an initial consultation at (877) 781-1570, or fill out our contact form.