Without a driver’s license, a person who drives a truck or a bus for a living is out of a job. A DWI conviction may lead to the suspension of a driver’s license, which could apply the brakes to a commercial driver’s employment.
Commercial drivers who operate in Texas must hold a commercial driver’s license (CDL) and they must follow both federal and state laws. Both federal and Texas laws are stricter for commercial drivers than for other drivers regarding alcohol, with lower limits for legal impairment than for other drivers.
The U.S. Department of Transportation (USDOT), through the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA), requires commercial drivers to be sober while on the job. A commercial driver with a blood-alcohol concentration (BAC) of 0.04 or more is considered legally drunk under 49 Code of Federal Regulations, Section 382.201, which is half the legal maximum limit for non-commercial drivers (0.08).
Section 522.081 of the Texas Statutes copies the federal BAC limit of 0.04. A person with a commercial driver’s license (CDL) who has a BAC of 0.04 or more in Texas while driving a commercial vehicle is legally considered a drunk driver and may be arrested for DWI (driving while intoxicated, also known as driving under the influence [DUI], or drunk driving), even if the person’s BAC level is below 0.08.
A commercial driver who exceeds the 0.08 limit when operating his or her personal vehicle will lose his or her CDL for a year, which will usually mean the end of the road as a professional driver. Additional penalties for “Commercial DWI” include the possibility of jail, fines, probation, and expensive DWI “surcharges.”
Commercial DWI Attorney in Plano, Allen, Frisco, & McKinney TX
The stakes are much higher for commercial drivers than for other drivers who face a DWI charge. If you are arrested for Commercial DWI in Plano, Texas, or anywhere in Collin County, Texas, you should contact a DWI defense attorney familiar with commercial DWI cases right away.
The DWI attorneys at the Law Offices of Richard C. McConathy understand that a commercial DWI conviction could result in a driver’s loss of his or her livelihood. Our dedicated lawyers are experienced in defending commercial drivers charged with DWI. We can explain your charges and help you determine a plan of action to defend against those charges. We are also capable of fighting to help you retain your commercial and personal driving privileges.
The Law Offices of Richard C. McConathy represent DUI clients all over Collin County, including the cities of Plano, Garland, McKinney, Frisco, Carrollton, Richardson, and Allen, as well as Rockwall and Grayson counties. Contact us today at (469) 304-3422 for an appointment, when we can review your case during a free, confidential consultation with one of our skilled DWI attorneys.
Commercial DWI under Texas Law
In Texas, a commercial truck or bus driver is considered to be driving while intoxicated if he or she has a BAC of 0.04 or higher (Texas Statutes, Transportation Code, Title 7, Subtitle B, Subchapter H, Section 522.081).
A driver operating a commercial motor vehicle with an alcohol concentration (BAC) of 0.04 or higher is subject to the same DWI punishments imposed on non-commercial drivers with a BAC of 0.08 or higher.
Definitions of Terms Related to Commercial DWI in Texas
A few of the terms in the commercial DWI law are defined in the Texas statutes, including commercial motor vehicle, intoxicated, and alcohol concentration.
“Commercial motor vehicle” is defined under federal 49 C.F.R. § 382.107 and Texas Statutes, Transportation Code § 522.003(5) as a motor vehicle or combination of motor vehicles used to transport passengers or property that:
- Has a gross combination weight or a gross combination weight rating of 26,001 or more pounds, including a towed unit with a gross vehicle weight or a gross vehicle weight rating of more than 10,000 pounds; or
- Has a gross vehicle weight or a gross vehicle weight rating of 26,001 or more pounds; or
- Is designed to transport 16 or more passengers, including the driver; or
- Is transporting hazardous materials.
Under the Texas Penal Code § 49.01(2), “intoxicated” means:
- Not having the normal use of mental or physical faculties by reason of the introduction of alcohol, a controlled substance, a drug, a dangerous drug, a combination of two or more of those substances, or any other substance into the body; or
- Having an alcohol concentration of 0.08 or more (0.04 for commercial drivers under Texas § 522.081).
Under Texas P.C. § 49.01(1), “alcohol concentration” (also known as blood alcohol concentration or BAC) means the number of grams of alcohol per:
- 210 liters of breath
- 100 milliliters of blood, or
- 67 milliliters of urine.”
Criminal Penalties for Commercial DWI in Texas
The criminal penalties for a commercial driver convicted of DWI in Texas are the same as those for a non-commercial driver, but a commercial DWI conviction may result in the loss of a commercial driver’s CDL (see Civil Penalties, below).
Driving while intoxicated is considered a Class B misdemeanor in Texas, and penalties include;
- A jail sentence of at least three days and up to 180 days; and/or
- A fine of up to $2,000
If a driver is found to have a BAC of 0.15 or higher, the charge is elevated to a Class A misdemeanor. If convicted, a Class A misdemeanor is punishable by:
- A jail sentence of up to one year; and/or
- A fine of up to $4,000
Civil Penalties for Commercial DWI in Texas
Anyone convicted of Commercial DWI in Texas may have to deal with a variety of civil penalties. After a DWI conviction, a person’s CDL may be suspended for a period of anywhere from one year to life, depending on the severity of the violation.
One Year CDL Suspension for First Commercial DWI
After a first DWI conviction, a person who holds a commercial driver’s license will be disqualified from driving a commercial vehicle for a period of one year:
- 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 for DWI with Hazardous Material
A CDL holder charged with DWI will be 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 for Multiple DWI Convictions and Other Crimes
Under Texas Statutes, Title 7, Chapter 522.081, a CDL holder charged with DWI will be disqualified from operating a commercial motor vehicle for life if:
- The person is convicted two or more times of DWI offenses specified in the statutes or a combination of those offenses, arising from two or more separate incidents; or
- 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; 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 who received a lifetime CDL suspension may appeal the suspension, as provided in Texas Statutes, Title 7, Chapter 522.082, but only after 10 years. If a driver who is reinstated after a lifetime suspension is ever convicted of a similar offense, he or she will permanently lose his or her CDL with no possibility of reinstatement.
Texas DWI Surcharges
In addition to the criminal penalties that may be imposed after a Commercial DWI conviction, Texas also assesses a mandatory annual DWI surcharge fee to be paid to the Texas Department of Public Safety (DPS). This administrative fee must be 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 CDL until all payments are made.
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)
Resources for Commercial DWI in Collin County, Texas
Texas Statutes, Penal Code, Title 10, Chapter 49.04 — Read the Texas state laws that define driving while intoxicated and the potential penalties for conviction.
Texas Statutes, Transportation Code, Title 7, Chapter 522.081 — Read the Texas state laws related to disqualification from driving a commercial motor vehicle, including the civil penalties that may result from a conviction for Commercial DWI.
Texas DPS – Commercial Vehicle Enforcement Service – Read about the special program that the Texas Department of Public Safety has developed for commercial vehicle safety. The objective of the Commercial Vehicle Enforcement Service is to reduce accidents, protect state highways and the rights of people driving on public roads and highways.
Commercial Motor Vehicle Drivers Handbook – The Texas DPS Commercial Motor Vehicle Drivers Handbook details subjects such as licensing tests, driving safely, transporting passengers, registration and regulations.
Texas Department of Motor Vehicles – The Texas Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) is responsible for registering and titling vehicles in the state, regulating motor carrier operating authority, and helping law enforcement agencies reduce auto theft and increase public driving awareness. The address is:
Texas Dept. of Motor Vehicles
1925 E. Beltline Rd., Suite 100
Carrollton, Texas 75006
Phone: (972) 417-0884
Find A Collin County Attorney to Fight Commercial DWI Charges | Law Offices of Richard C. McConathy
If you are currently charged with Commercial DWI in Collin County, Texas, you should act right away to retain your driving privileges and your livelihood.
The experienced DWI attorneys at the Law Offices of Richard C. McConathy are familiar with Commercial DUI cases and can provide important information about the state and federal laws related to a Commercial DWI charge. We serve clients throughout Collin County, including Plano, Frisco, Garland, Carrollton, McKinney, Richardson, and Allen, as well as Rockwall and Grayson counties.