What is a Commercial DUI?

Although any allegation of drunk driving is a serious offense, a drunk driving offense is even more serious when the offender is a commercial driver.

This is because the standards for drunk driving are lower when the offender is a commercial driver. In addition, a commercial drunk driver often faces harsh penalties for a DUI conviction that can lead to a revocation of their commercial license.

A commercial DUI can lead to an arrest

When law enforcement suspects a commercial driver is DUI, they can stop the driver in order to investigate. The investigation is the same as it is for other drivers. Law enforcement might conduct field sobriety tests, ask the driver to take a PBT and inquire about their drinking.

If they believe that the person is DUI, they might make an arrest. If the driver can obtain a bail bond, they can remain free from jail while they wait for further proceedings. This can allow the driver to attend to business until they wait for court dates.

Strict standards for commercial DUI

Commercial drivers are held to a higher standard. That is, the legal limit for a drunk driver is lower in most states for a commercial driver than it is for a private person with a private license. For example, in most states, the drunk driving limit for a private person is a .08. For commercial drivers in most states, the legal limit is a .04.

There are a number of reasons that the states justify the strict standards. Commercial drivers are more likely to drive large groups of children than private drivers. In addition, they’re more likely to drive large vehicles or dangerous cargo. In many cases, a commercial driver is a person that drives others for hire. States want people to have confidence that when they use a for-hire care service, they’re hiring a competent and sober driver.

The penalties are the same or worse

Even though the standards for drunk driving are more strict for commercial drivers, the penalties for commercial DUI are often the same or even worse than they are for private drivers. A penalty for DUI can include jail time. Commercial drivers are subject to fines, probation, restitution and alcohol monitoring through the courts.

Commercial drivers and non-commercial drivers both face suspension of their driver’s license after a DUI conviction. This suspension can be as long as several months. In the case of a commercial driver, the state may impose a longer suspension than a private driver receives. They can also suspend the driver’s right to drive commercially. This can effectively end the person’s career.


Even though a commercial driver might lose their livelihood because of a DUI conviction, they only suffer penalties if they’re convicted of DUI. If they have viable defenses, the state might decline to press charges. A jury can also make a finding of not guilty that results in dismissal of the case.

Law enforcement may not have had a lawful reason to stop the vehicle. If they didn’t have probable cause to investigate the driver, the court might dismiss the whole case. The driver can bring this type of motion to ask the court to evaluate the stop before the case even goes to trial.

In addition, law enforcement must prove that the driver had an unlawful bodily alcohol content or that they drove under the influence of alcohol. If law enforcement makes errors when they conduct field sobriety tests, the jury may not convict the driver. Law enforcement also has to follow rules when they administer a chemical test. If they don’t follow these rules, the result may be dismissal of the DUI case against the commercial driver.

Plea bargains

A commercial driver might reach a good resolution to their case by pursuing a plea bargain. In some cases, understanding prosecutors may allow the driver to accept a plea offer to a reduced charge. This might allow the driver to avoid a license suspension or keep their commercial driving designation. No two cases are alike, so it’s important for the driver to work with an experienced DUI attorney in order to make the best decision in their case.
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