The Impact of a DUI on a Commercial Driver's License

A Commercial Driver License (CDL) is more strictly regulated in Pennsylvania than a personal driver's license. If a person with a CDL is a commercial driver at the time of a DUI, Pennsylvania's Vehicle Code requires lengthier jail terms and license suspensions than for non-commercial drivers.

Pennsylvania has a 3-tier DUI system of punishment for non-commercial drivers. Those driving with a BAC of .10% - .16% fall in the second tier. However, a CDL holder who is a commercial driver at the time of a DUI is automatically placed into the second tier for sentencing purposes. More significantly, a CDL holder who is driving a commercial vehicle while driving under the influence of alcohol can be charged if his BAC is as low as a .04%. If the CDL holder is driving a school bus or a school vehicle while DUI, he can be charged if his BAC is as low as .02%.

The main difference between the lowest two DUI tiers is in the mandatory jail time. For a first offense, the CDL driver will go to jail for at least the mandatory 48 hours. If a person is driving a non-commercial vehicle and his BAC is .08-.10%, the mandatory minimum punishment is probation. These penalties increase for subsequent DUI's. Any driver who is charged with DUI and has a BAC above .16%, is under the influence of non-prescribed controlled substances, or is under the influence of alcohol and controlled substances, will fall into the third tier. The third tier requires a mandatory jail term that is lengthier than the second tier.

Under Pennsylvania's Vehicle Code, if a person with a CDL is driving a commercial vehicle at the time of his first DUI, his license will be suspended for 12 months upon conviction. A conviction includes entry into the Accelerated Rehabilitative Disposition (ARD) program. For non-commercial drivers, the ARD program requires license suspensions of usually no more than 60 days. Any subsequent conviction for DUI while driving a commercial vehicle will lead to a lifetime disqualification of CDL privileges. Repeat non-commercial DUI drivers will not suffer such a severe automatic disqualification.

While the jail time may not appear overwhelming, combined with the subsequent loss of your CDL, the penalties are long lasting. The severity of the penalties should be warning enough to contact an attorney to discuss all of your available options.