Commercial trucks transport about two-thirds of the nation’s freight every year. Commercial buses transport precious human cargo. Due to their size, commercial vehicles also deliver the potential for danger on the highway.
In addition to possessing a commercial driver’s license issued by a state, most commercial truck drivers must be federally licensed by the U.S. Department of Transportation (USDOT). One of the rules established by the USDOT’s Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) is that operation of a commercial vehicle by a driver with a blood-alcohol concentration (BAC) of 0.04 or more is illegal (49 Code of Federal Regulations §382.201).
Texas state law adheres to the federal BAC threshold, which is half the level for other drivers (0.08). A person who holds a commercial driver’s license (CDL) and has a BAC of 0.04 or more in Texas is legally considered a drunk driver and may be arrested for DWI (driving while intoxicated), even when the BAC level is below 0.08. In addition, a person with a Texas CDL who exceeds the 0.08 threshold when driving a personal vehicle will lose his or her CDL for a year.
Penalties for “Commercial DWI” include possible jail time, expensive fines, probation, community service, and a mandatory driver’s license suspension, which may cause the loss of a commercial truck driving job.
Definition of Commercial Vehicles in San Antonio, Texas
Both the federal and Texas definitions of “commercial motor vehicle” are the same and mean a motor vehicle or combination of motor vehicles used to transport passengers or property that:
- Has a gross combination weight rating of 26,001 or more pounds, including a towed unit with a gross vehicle weight rating of more than 10,000 pounds
- Has a gross vehicle weight rating of 26,001 or more pounds
- Is designed to transport 16 or more passengers, including the driver, or
- Is transporting hazardous materials and is required to display a placard under the U.S. Code of Federal Regulations
(See 49 C.F.R. §382.107 and Texas Statutes, Title 7, Chapter 522.003(5).)
Civil Penalties for Commercial DWI in San Antonio, Texas
People who hold commercial driver’s licenses and drive commercial vehicles are held to a higher legal standard due to the size of their vehicles and their cargo, whether it is materials or people. If a commercial driver commits a serious violation, his or her CDL may be suspended for anywhere from a year to life, depending on the severity of the violation.
People convicted of Commercial DWI face numerous penalties, both criminal and civil. But the civil penalties, including the loss of a commercial driver’s license, may actually be worse, because they may result in the loss of a job as a commercial truck driver.
One Year CDL Suspension
Under Texas law, a person who holds a commercial driver’s license is disqualified from driving a commercial motor vehicle for one year upon a first conviction:
- For driving a motor vehicle under the influence of alcohol or a controlled substance;
- For refusing to submit to a test to determine the person’s alcohol concentration or the presence in the person’s body of a controlled substance or drug while operating a motor vehicle in a public place; or
- If an analysis of the person’s blood, breath, or urine determines that the person:
- Had an alcohol concentration of 0.04 or more, or that a controlled substance or drug was present in the person’s body while operating a commercial motor vehicle in a public place; or
- Had an alcohol concentration of 0.08 or more while operating a motor vehicle, other than a commercial motor vehicle, in a public place
Three Year CDL Suspension
A person who holds a commercial driver’s license is disqualified from operating a commercial motor vehicle for three years if:
- Convicted of driving a motor vehicle under the influence of alcohol in a vehicle transporting a hazardous material required to be placarded or if the driver refuses to submit to a test to determine the driver’s alcohol concentration or the presence in the person’s body of a controlled substance or drug, or;
- An analysis of the person’s blood, breath, or urine determines that while transporting a hazardous material required to be placarded that the person:
- While operating a commercial motor vehicle in a public place had an alcohol concentration of 0.04 or more, or a controlled substance or drug present in the person’s body; or
- While operating a motor vehicle, other than a commercial motor vehicle, in a public place had an alcohol concentration of 0.08 or more.
Lifetime CDL Suspension
A person who holds a commercial driver’s license is disqualified from operating a commercial motor vehicle for life if:
- The person is convicted two or more times of certain offenses specified in the statutes or a combination of those offenses, arising from two or more separate incidents;
- The person uses a motor vehicle in the commission of a felony involving:
- The manufacture, distribution, or dispensing of a controlled substance; or
- Possession with intent to manufacture, distribute, or dispense a controlled substance;
- For any combination of two or more certain offenses specified in the statutes, or
- The person uses a motor vehicle in the commission of an offense that involves the transportation, concealment, or harboring of an alien
A person may not be issued a commercial driver’s license and is disqualified from operating a commercial motor vehicle if they’re determined to have had an alcohol concentration of 0.04 or more or to have had a controlled substance or drug present in the person’s body.
(See Texas Statutes, Title 7, Chapter 522.081.)
Texas law provides for an appeals process for CDL suspensions, but a lifetime disqualification may not be appealed for 10 years (See Texas Statutes, Title 7, Chapter 522.082).
Texas DWI Surcharges
In addition to the criminal penalties that may be imposed after a Commercial DWI conviction, Texas will also assess a mandatory annual surcharge fee to be paid to the Texas Department of Public Safety (DPS). This administrative fee is paid for a period of three years as a condition of maintaining a driver’s license. Failure to pay the surcharges or enter into a payment agreement will result in the automatic suspension of a driver’s license until all payments are made.
A Class A misdemeanor conviction for a first DWI with a BAC of 0.16 or more imposes annual surcharges of $2,000 annually for three years if and when a license is granted (Texas Statutes, Title 7, Chapter 708.10.)
Texas DWI surcharges, to be paid to the Texas Department of Public Safety, are:
- DWI First Offense — $1,000 annual surcharge ($3,000 total)
- DWI Second or Subsequent Offense — $1,500 annual surcharge ($4,500 total)
- DWI with BAC 0.16 or more (first offense) — $2,000 annual surcharge ($6,000 total)
Title 1, Chapter 49.04 of the Texas Penal Code states that if it is shown at trial that “an analysis of a specimen of the person’s blood, breath, or urine showed an alcohol concentration level of 0.15 or more at the time the analysis was performed, the offense is a Class A misdemeanor.” “Alcohol concentration” is the same as BAC and means the number of grams of alcohol per:
- 210 liters of breath
- 100 milliliters of blood, or
- 67 milliliters of urine
(See Texas Penal Code, Title 1, Chapter 49.01(1).)
The police may conduct field sobriety exercises or use chemical tests, including breath tests, blood tests, or urine tests to determine a driver’s BAC.
A driver may refuse any DWI test unless police obtain a warrant, but the refusal of a test violates Texas’ implied consent law, resulting in the automatic suspension of a driver’s license. A commercial driver who refuses a test faces the automatic suspension of his or her driver’s license, which could immediately end employment as a commercial truck driver.
A driver who refuses a test is entitled to an administrative license revocation (ALR) hearing, where the suspension may be challenged by the driver along with his or her legal counsel, but an ALR hearing must be requested within 15 days of the arrest.
Anyone who is charged with DWI in San Antonio, Texas needs to mount a strong defense, and a commercial driver charged with DWI has even more at stake than most other drivers. Consulting with an experienced DWI attorney is a smart decision. A qualified criminal defense lawyer will be able to explain all the elements of a Commercial DWI case and may be able to discover evidence that results in a reduction or dismissal of charges.
Criminal Penalties for BAC of 0.15 or More
A criminal court will not only consider the BAC of a driver but also his or her prior criminal record when imposing a sentence for a DWI conviction.
First DWI Conviction
A first-time DWI offender with a BAC below 0.15 is usually charged with a Class B misdemeanor, with criminal penalties upon conviction of between 72 hours and 180 days in jail and a fine of up to $2,000.
First DWI with 0.15 BAC or More
The charges for a first DWI offense are enhanced to a Class A misdemeanor if a chemical test showed the defendant’s BAC was 0.15 or more, with penalties upon conviction similar to a second DWI conviction. A Class A misdemeanor may result in between 30 days and one year in jail, a fine of up to $4,000, and the loss of driving privileges for up to two years, with higher DWI surcharges than for a DWI with a lower BAC.
Find an Attorney for Commercial DWI in San Antonio, Texas
If you hold a CDL and were charged with Commercial DWI or drunk driving with a BAC of 0.04 or more in San Antonio or Bexar County, Texas, then you should consider immediately contacting an experienced criminal defense attorney at The Parent Law Firm. Dave Parent is experienced in fighting Commercial Vehicle DWI cases.
A qualified lawyer may be able to find inconsistencies or weaknesses in the prosecution’s case. Filing and litigating motions to suppress or dismiss may lead to a reduction or outright dismissal of the charges. You also face short time limits related to fighting to protect your driving privileges from an administrative suspension.
If you have been arrested in San Antonio, Boerne, Comfort, or the surrounding areas, The Parent Law Firm is equipped with the local knowledge and resources necessary to defend a charge of Commercial DWI. Dave Parent is a dedicated DWI attorney in Bexar County who can explain the charges you face and then work hard to fight those charges.
The Parent Law Firm may be able to help you avoid a trial and negotiate a reduction or dismissal of the charges, but Dave Parent will take a case to trial if necessary and will fight against a conviction. He will also fight to retain your commercial and personal driving privileges.
Call The Parent Law Firm today at 210-819-4111 to schedule your free initial consultation.