DC CDL: Consequences For a DUI

Due to the fact that commercial drivers depend on their license in order to complete their jobs, a DUI charge can have a profoundly negative impact resulting in loss of employment, in addition to the other fines and penalties associated with driving under the influence. To learn about the consequences you may be facing against your CDL if you have been charged for a DUI read below, or consult with a DC CDL DUI lawyer to discuss the specifics of your case.

Ability to Work

A person can still be suspended or have their commercial drivers’ license revoked even if they’re not convicted in the superior court for DUI. This is because the entity that handles license suspension is the DMV and the DMV has different and lower standards for determining whether or not to suspend or revoke a person’s commercial drivers’ license compared to the DC criminal court.

So if you’re driving a commercial vehicle and are charged with driving under the influence, then having a blood alcohol content of .04 or higher can result in a mandatory withdrawal of your CDL even if you’re not charged or convicted of the DUI in the criminal court. Even though evidence may not rise to the level sufficient to convict a person at the DC superior court, which is the criminal side of a case, the evidence could still be enough at the DMV to revoke the person’s drivers’ license.


The legal consequences to a CDL holder are the same when you’re charged with a DUI as a non CDL holder. That means that a person who has a commercial drivers’ license faces the same mandatory six months license revocation by the DC DMV and the same one year license revocation if they decline to submit to the urine sample. However, a person who has a commercial drivers’ license is barred under federal regulations from receiving certain favorable treatments when it comes to a first offense DUI. As an example a person who is charged with a DUI and has a relatively low blood alcohol content may be eligible in DC for a deferred sentencing agreement that would allow them to complete alcohol classes, community service and certain other programs in exchange for having their charges dismissed. A person who is a holder of a commercial drivers’ license, under federal guidelines, is not eligible for those favorable resolution possibilities.

Another consequence that’s more significant is a situation where a person is a holder of a commercial drivers’ license and gets arrested for a DUI while driving a commercial vehicle. In that situation your standard is lower to be considered under the influence than it would be if you were driving a non-commercial vehicle. The normal legal limit for blood alcohol content is a 0.08 but if you’re a commercial drivers’ license holder driving a commercial vehicle then your legal limit is only a 0.04.

Additionally, the length of a person’s withdrawal depends on how many violations the person has had. If a person is facing a first conviction, then the mandatory withdrawal period is one year. For a second conviction a person is disqualified for life, but the lifetime disqualification for a CDL can be commuted to ten years in the situation the person is able to submit a request to commute the lifetime ban and submit proof that the person has completed an alcohol program or a drug rehabilitation program, and finally submits proof that the person has a good driving history during that period of disqualification outside of the CDL. If a person is facing a third conviction, then the mandatory ban is for life and there is no possibility of commuting that.

Higher Standards In Court

The attorney general’s office and local prosecutors’ offices around the country do hold commercial drivers’ license holders to a higher standard. And the reason for that is federal guidelines state that local prosecutors cannot grant commercial drivers’ license holders the ability to be able to complete diversion programs that would allow them to get their charges dismissed in exchange for complying with certain requirements.

Deferred sentencing agreements are an example in DC of something that would allow a person charged with a DUI to have their charges dismissed in exchange for the completion of an alcohol program or community service or certain other conditions. So as a result of these federal guidelines, CDL holders are held to a higher standard and are not be eligible for these kinds of favorable resolutions. 

Long-Term Implications of A DUI Conviction on CDL Holders

A CDL holder who is charged and convicted for driving under the influence even on a first offense faces a mandatory one year withdrawal of their commercial driver’s license. If a person doesn’t have a commercial driver’s license but wants to get one in the future, then the person would be denied the ability to even submit an application for a commercial driver’s license within one year of being convicted of driving under the influence. What the means is that if a person has a commercial driver’s license and has that CDL withdrawn for a full year that will be one full year that a person would not be able to work in their capacity as a commercial driver. They may be able to drive in some other capacity or still hold their job where they don’t drive a commercial vehicle, but in a situation where driving a commercial vehicle is essential to the job, then it could have long term implications for a person’s continued ability to be able to work.

That especially applies for a second or subsequent offense, because a person would be facing the possibility of a lifetime withdrawal of their commercial driver’s license meaning that they would never be able to have a CDL again in the future or they would never be able to apply for a commercial driver’s license in the event they wanted to sometime in the future.