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CDL DWI in North Carolina: What You Need To Know

All drivers on the road are expected to abide by the laws and practice safe driving. However, if you hold a commercial driver's license (CDL) the expectations for you to be a responsible driver hold additional importance because your job, reputation, and livelihood are on the line.

Our Raleigh DWI attorneys at The Law Offices of J.M. Kotzker understand how quickly the life of a CDL holder can change when faced with a DWI conviction. If you are a commercial driver facing a DWI charge, we have everything you need to know about the obstacles and potential outcomes that lay ahead.

DWI Laws For Commercial Drivers In NC

Under North Carolina law, drivers operating a commercial vehicle are held to a higher standard than other motorists.

As you know well, becoming qualified to obtain a commercial license is no small feat. You went through rigorous training and skills tests in order to begin your career driving a commercial vehicle- which is why facing a DWI conviction can have such a serious impact on your life and your work.

Legal Limit Law For Commercial Vehicle Drivers In North Carolina

Non-commercial drivers are considered impaired while driving if their blood alcohol concentration (BAC) tests are at .08 or higher.

For CDL drivers any results that read at .04 or higher will result in a DWI arrest. If the breathalyzer results show that the commercial driver is lower than .04 but the law enforcement officer detects clear signs of driving while impaired, the CDL driver can still face consequences at their job.

Consequences of a DWI for CDL holders

There are additional extenuating circumstances such as driving a passenger vehicle, driving with hazardous materials, or receiving a second DWI while driving a commercial motor vehicle that impacts the driver's future.

  • Under the DWI limit, but showing signs of impairment: You are restricted from operating the commercial vehicle for 24 hours.
  • First-time CDL DWI offense: lose your commercial driver's license for 1 year.
  • Subsequent DWI convictions: a second conviction results in a CDL disqualification with the opportunity to reinstate it after 10 years, and a third conviction means a lifetime disqualification of your commercial license with no opportunity to reinstate it.
  • Transporting hazardous materials DWI: a first offense results in a 3-year suspension of your CDL, and a second offense results in a lifetime disqualification of your license.
  • Passenger vehicle DWI: when driving your own personal vehicle, you are held to the same BAC level as other motorists, at .08 or higher. However, you will still have your CDL suspended for up to 1 year.

Drivers License Points

North Carolina drivers who do not adhere to the state's driving laws will accumulate points against their driver's license. For individuals who get points on their license and whose career is driving a commercial vehicle, the accumulation of up to 12 points in a 3-year period can result in your CDL being suspended.

Drivers can receive points for DWIs but also for violating other traffic laws.

CDL & Sobriety Test Refusals

If you are driving a commercial vehicle and faced with a traffic stop for driving while impaired, you are considered to have "impliedly consented" to a urine, breath, or blood test in the state of NC.

This means that while drivers of personal, non-commercial vehicles can refuse to be tested for a controlled substance, a CDL holder is legally required to submit to a BAC test if driving a commercial vehicle. If the CDL holder refuses, they will face arrest, potential fines, CDL suspension, and additional penalties.

DWI and CDL License Disqualification

North Carolina's law enforcement officers take DWI offenses seriously, particularly when the person holds a commercial driver's license. Second and third DWI offenses can result in CDL disqualifications for life. It's important to speak to a Raleigh DWI defense lawyer with experience representing clients who hold a commercial driver's license to discuss the strategies and details related to your case.

Impact Of A DWI Charge For CDL Holders In North Carolina

If you hold a commercial driver's license and have an alcohol concentration level of .04 or over that qualifies you to be charged with a DWI, there are consequences for your impaired driving.

Some ways that CDL holders are impacted by a DWI conviction or other DWI under the certain circumstances outlined above are:

  • Points on your license.
  • Limited driving privilege.
  • Suspensions of your CDL can last anywhere from 1-10 years.
  • Disqualification of your CDL for life.
  • The loss of your job and future career opportunities.
  • Lost wages due to a DWI case that suspended you from working.
  • DWI cases and convictions are misdemeanor charges on your permanent criminal record (although you may work with your DWI lawyer on getting DWI record expungement).

Possible Defenses For CDL DWI

It is important to speak to a lawyer with experience defending commercial drivers charged with a DWI so they can review the specific details related to your case. Additionally, a local law firm can help you understand your rights for DWI checkpoints and determine if any rights were violated.

Scheduling a free consultation with one of our Raleigh, NC lawyers is the best way to learn more about the best defense strategy for your CDL DWI case.

Here is an idea of the directions we can go in developing a defense strategy:

  • You were not driving a commercial vehicle at the time of arrest but were stopped at a rest stop, sleeping pulled over on the side of the road, or the officer did not witness you driving on the road.
  • The officer did not have a reason for pulling you over, opening the potential that your rights were violated and the BAC results are therefore inadmissible in a court of law.
  • Improper testing methods were used at the DWI traffic stop, potentially making the BAC results inadmissible.

Contact a Raleigh DWI Attorney to Review Your Case

It is not worth losing time, money, and future opportunities for career advancement because your commercial driver's license is suspended or disqualified from a DWI conviction. Schedule a free consultation with our NC DWI defense law firm.

In order to avoid the harsh consequences of a CDL DWI charge, The Law Offices of  J.M. Kotzker, P.C. are committed to providing you with the best defense possible so that you can continue driving commercial vehicles without suspension.

Call us today at (919) 439-5104 to meet with one of our attorneys.