Prosecution and Defense

Commercial Drivers and DWI

1. How are New Jersey DWI laws applied to a driver with a CDL? 

A person who holds a commercial drivers license (CDL) is held to a much higher standard as a professional driver. A CDL driver faces some of the harshest penalties and may face the loss of their career, even for a first time DWI violation. Many trucking companies simply will not hire or sub-contract out work to a truck driver who has a DWI or a refusal on his record. The risk of liability is way too much to great to risk hiring a truck driver with a history of DWI violations. Consequently, many truck drivers have been forced to find a new occupation if  they have been convicted of a DWI.  N.J.S.A.  39:10-13 provides that a person shall not operate a commercial motor vehicle in New Jersey with an alcohol concentration of 0.04%. It is also an offense to operate a commercial motor vehicle while under the influence of a controlled dangerous substance. The BAC level for a DWI in NJ is .08% but for a CDL driver the BAC level is .04% even if you are driving a non-commercial vehicle at the time of the stop.

A commercial truck driver must be fully aware of the very harsh penalties they may encounter if  he drives under the influence in New Jersey.  Even if your BAC is .04% which is extremely low, then you can still be charged with a DWI under the Federal Motor Carrier Safety act. This federal law is also applicable to anyone with a commercial drivers’ license even if he is driving his own car.

A commercial truck driver can lose his driver’s license for a year if  he is convicted of driving under the influence. If convicted while driving a HAZMAT truck then the loss of the license increases to three years. If you have had a prior DWI conviction, then you could permanently lose your driver’s license. If you refuse to take a breathalyzer or blood test, then you will be considered guilty. You could even be sentenced to jail if your BAC was above 0.08%.

2. What are the penalties for a commercial driver with a CDL who is convicted for a DWI?      

Your Commercial Driver License (CDL) is at great risk if you are convicted of  DWI any violations – even those involving non-commercial motor vehicles.

  • Initial DWI conviction in a passenger vehicle will result in a three to 12-month basic driver license suspension and a one-year CDL suspension.
  • Second DWI conviction in a passenger vehicle will result in a two-year basic driver license suspension and a permanently revoked CDL.

A DWI conviction for a non-commercial defendant results in a suspension of a CDL license for at least 1 year and up to 3 years for a first offense. For a second offense, there is a lifetime suspension of your CDL license. However, you may may apply for a reinstatement of your CDL after a period of 10 years. However, there are no guarantees that your reinstatement application will be granted. There are also additional penalties and they include include jail time, community service, fines and participation, and you must attend the IDRC. Your non-commercial driving license will not be suspended unless your BAC level is .08% or greater.

If you refuse to submit to a breath test and/or blood test as requested by the police, then you will be subject to an automatic suspension of 7-12 months for a first offense, 2 years for second offense, and 10 years for a third offense with fines increasing with each offense.

3. I am a commercial truck driver. I just was convicted of a DWI in Ohio. How will this out of state DWI conviction effect my New Jersey CDL?

If you were convicted of DWI in another state, whether you were driving a commercial vehicle or not, NJ will suspend your CDL for 1 year for a first conviction. You will receive a lifetime suspension for a second DWI conviction.