As a commercial driver’s license (CDL) holder, you have an increased responsibility to operate your vehicle safely. Operators of large motor vehicles (such as commercial trucks and vans) must abide by special rules from the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration on top of typical roadway rules in North Carolina. Some laws specific to CDL drivers are the legal limits for driving while impaired (DWI). Commercial drivers must follow extra-stringent DWI laws in the Tar Heel State and such it’s best to hire a seasoned CDL DWI lawyer to handle your case.
DWI Laws for Commercial Drivers in NC
If you’re a commercial driver in North Carolina, your legal drinking and driving limit is a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) level of 0.04 or higher. For non-commercial drivers, the legal BAC limit is 0.08 in NC. An officer can also make a CDL DWI arrest if he or she has reason to believe you’re under the influence of a controlled substance. As a CDL holder, you automatically give your consent to field sobriety tests such as a Breathalyzer or other test. You have the right to refuse these tests, but this will result in penalties such as a one-year license suspension – often costing commercial drivers their careers.
A DWI or refusing to take a BAC test is a major offense and can lead to a disqualified CDL in North Carolina. Driving a commercial motor vehicle with any detectable BAC level will result in a 24-hour CDL suspension, or an out-of-service order. If an officer catches a commercial driving operating a vehicle with a suspended or disqualified license from a prior DWI, the courts will suspend the license again for another year or longer. The penalties of driving while impaired as a commercial driver are severe and can lead to lifelong consequences, such as losing your CDL for good.
Possible Defenses for CDL DWI
There are several potential defenses that may apply in your CDL DWI situation. When you meet with us during a free case consultation, we’ll discuss the circumstances of your arrest and discover if there were any mistakes or acts of negligence on the officer’s end. This is a common defense against DWI charges that can lead to the courts suppressing evidence against you. Other possible defenses for DWIs include:
- You weren’t driving at the time of arrest. If you were in your commercial vehicle at the time of arrest but had it parked and the officer did not observe you driving, this is a strong defense against DWI. If you were sleeping at a rest stop or idling in a parking lot, for example, the issue of DWI may be debatable.
- The officer did not have reasonable articulable suspicion. If the officer did not have a reason for pulling your vehicle over, the courts may suppress the evidence against you even if it showed you had an illegal BAC level. Officers must have reasonable suspicion for a traffic stop, such as running a red light or weaving in traffic.
- Improper testing or arrest. In many DWI cases, a defense attorney can demonstrate that evidence against the driver is inadmissible from improper impairment tests. Non-standard tests (such as the alphabet test or the counting backwards test) may be inadmissible, and even breath tests may be in certain circumstances. The courts may also throw out an officer’s evidence if he or she did not read Miranda Rights or otherwise failed to properly make the arrest.
Scharff Law Firm can help you understand local CDL DWI laws. Through every step of your case and trial, we’ll do our best to help you get your commercial license back. From preparing a defense to hiring expert witnesses to testify, we have the resources to help you. Even if we advise a guilty plea, we can help you try to minimize your penalties. Call (919) 457-1954 for a free case evaluation.