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The Impact of DWI/DUI on Commercial Driver’s Licenses in New Jersey

New Jersey Second Offense DUI LawyersNew Jersey Second Offense DUI Lawyers

Driving While Intoxicated (DWI) or Driving Under the Influence (DUI) is a serious offense in all jurisdictions. For commercial drivers in New Jersey, the stakes are even higher. Commercial vehicle operators are held to a stricter standard, given the potential severity of accidents involving larger vehicles that might be transporting goods or passengers. At Attorneys Hartman, Chartered, we’re dedicated to helping drivers understand the implications of a DWI/DUI on a commercial driver’s license (CDL) in the Garden State and how they can navigate the legal complexities involved.

A Stricter Standard for Commercial Drivers:

In New Jersey, while the blood alcohol concentration (BAC) limit for non-commercial drivers is 0.08%, commercial drivers face a stricter BAC limit of 0.04%. The rationale behind this stricter standard is the increased risk associated with larger vehicles and the professional responsibility commercial drivers hold.

Penalties for a First Offense:

A Driving While Intoxicated (DWI) or Driving Under the Influence (DUI) charge is taken very seriously in the state of New Jersey. For individuals facing a first-time offense, it’s crucial to understand the penalties, which can range from fines to suspension of driving privileges. Let’s break down the potential repercussions for a first-time DWI/DUI offense in New Jersey based on the driver’s Blood Alcohol Concentration (BAC):

1. BAC of 0.08% but less than 0.10%:

  • Fines: Between $250 and $400.
  • Jail Time: Up to 30 days.
  • License Suspension: 3 months.
  • Intoxicated Driver Resource Center (IDRC): Mandatory 12-48 hours in the IDRC.
  • Ignition Interlock Device: Required for 3 months after license restoration.

2. BAC of 0.10% or higher:

  • Fines: Between $300 and $500.
  • Jail Time: Up to 30 days.
  • License Suspension: Between 7 months and 1 year.
  • Intoxicated Driver Resource Center (IDRC): Mandatory 12-48 hours in the IDRC.
  • Ignition Interlock Device: Required for 7 months to 1 year after license restoration.

Additional Penalties and Costs:

Regardless of the BAC, individuals convicted of a first-time DWI/DUI can expect:

  • IDRC Detainment Fee: $230.
  • Drunk Driving Fund: $100.
  • Alcohol Education and Rehabilitation Fund (AERF): $100.
  • Motor Vehicle Commission (MVC) Surcharge: $1,000 per year for three years.
  • Safe and Secure Community Program Fee: $75.

Additional Consequences for High BAC Levels:

For those with a BAC of 0.15% or higher, the court will order the ignition interlock device to be installed during the license suspension period and for 9 to 15 months following license restoration.

Underage DUI Offenders:

Drivers under the legal drinking age (21) who are caught with a BAC of 0.01% or higher but less than 0.08% face a 30 to 90-day license suspension, community service for 15 to 30 days, and participation in the IDRC or an alcohol education and highway safety program.

Refusal to Take the Breath Test:

Refusing to take a breath test in New Jersey is considered a violation in itself and carries additional penalties:

  • Fines: Between $300 and $500.
  • License Suspension: Between 7 months and 1 year.
  • Ignition Interlock Device: Required installation, with the duration dependent on BAC levels if measured.

Subsequent Offenses and Their Repercussions:

For commercial drivers with subsequent DWI/DUI offenses, the penalties become more severe:

  • Permanent CDL Disqualification: A second DWI/DUI offense results in a lifetime disqualification of the CDL, with a possibility of reinstatement after 10 years. A third offense ensures permanent disqualification without the possibility of reinstatement.
  • Increased Financial Penalties: The monetary fines rise considerably with subsequent offenses.
  • Jail Time: Depending on the case specifics, commercial drivers could face jail time for multiple DWI/DUI convictions.

Out-of-Service Orders:

Separate from the DWI/DUI conviction, commercial drivers might receive an out-of-service order for a specified period, even for a first-time offense. Such an order means they cannot operate a commercial vehicle for that duration.

The Implications for Livelihood:

For many commercial drivers, their CDL is their livelihood. A suspension or disqualification can have devastating effects, leading to job loss and significant financial hardships. Additionally, having a DWI/DUI on one’s record can make finding subsequent employment within the transportation industry incredibly challenging.

Defending Your Rights and CDL:

For commercial drivers, a Commercial Driver’s License (CDL) isn’t just a piece of identification—it’s a lifeline, the very foundation of their profession. Protecting it, especially in the face of potential legal challenges like DWI/DUI charges, is paramount. Here’s a comprehensive guide on defending your rights and CDL, ensuring that you can continue your career on the road.

1. Understand Your Rights:

First and foremost, it’s vital for every commercial driver to understand their rights. If stopped by law enforcement:

  • Right to Remain Silent: Just like any other individual, you have the right to remain silent. Anything you say can be used against you in a court of law.
  • Right to an Attorney: If charged, you can ask to speak to an attorney before answering questions.
  • Right to Refuse Searches: While the officer can look inside your truck for safety reasons, they generally cannot conduct a deeper search without a warrant or probable cause.

2. Contest the Initial Stop:

Many DWI/DUI cases hinge on the initial traffic stop. If the officer lacked a legitimate reason for pulling you over, any evidence gathered subsequently might be deemed inadmissible in court.

3. Challenge the Evidence:

A significant part of defending your CDL involves challenging the validity of evidence:

  • Breathalyzer Accuracy: These machines require calibration and proper operation. An experienced attorney can question its accuracy or the operator’s competence.
  • Field Sobriety Tests: These tests can be subjective, and various factors, such as medical conditions or even footwear, can affect results.

4. Negotiate for Lesser Charges:

Sometimes, it’s possible to negotiate with the prosecution for lesser charges that carry less severe penalties for your CDL. For example, a charge might be reduced from a DWI/DUI to reckless driving, which might have different implications for your commercial driving status.

5. Alternative Sentencing:

In some jurisdictions and circumstances, alternative sentencing like diversion programs or substance abuse counseling can be used in lieu of harsher penalties, potentially allowing you to retain or reinstate your CDL more swiftly.

CDL Reinstatement:

If your CDL is suspended or revoked, it’s crucial to understand the process for reinstatement:

1. Serve the Full Suspension:

Ensure you don’t drive commercially during the suspension period.

2. Fulfill All Requirements:

This may include court-ordered programs, paying fines, or other stipulations.

3. Reapply for CDL:

Depending on the nature of your offense and jurisdiction, you might need to reapply and retake your CDL exams.

4. Obtain Special Permissions:

In some cases, after a severe violation, you might need to seek special permissions or waivers to get back on the road.

Defending your rights and CDL demands the expertise of an attorney well-versed in local traffic laws and the unique challenges faced by commercial drivers. An experienced attorney can guide your defense, negotiate on your behalf, and provide expert representation if your case proceeds to trial.

Contact an Experienced DWI/DUI Lawyer at Attorneys Hartman, Chartered for a Free Consultation About Your Case Today

The impact of a DWI/DUI on a commercial driver’s license in New Jersey is profound. With stricter standards, higher stakes, and severe penalties, commercial drivers facing such charges need a robust legal defense. At Attorneys Hartman, Chartered, our team has the expertise, experience, and dedication to guide commercial drivers through these challenging times. If you or someone you know is facing DWI/DUI charges as a commercial driver, remember that understanding your rights and having a skilled attorney by your side can make all the difference. Contact us today to schedule a free consultation and see how we can help.