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DUI Penalties for CDL Drivers in Illinois

Updated on June 17, 2021 → Under

Commercial drivers are drivers who drive for a living and require a commercial drivers' license (CDL) for their job. Most commercial drivers are truckers who transport goods throughout Illinois or even across the nation. However, since CDL holders drive large trucks and carry valuable cargo, the government keeps a close eye on them to ensure they abide by the law and keep other motorists safe.

To achieve this, the federal government has guidelines that govern commercial drivers’ conduct, including strict licensure procedures and severe punishment for violations. Illinois follows these guidelines closely, including guidelines that regulate legal procedures and consequences when a commercial driver is convicted of drunk driving. This has led to severe DUI penalties for CDL drivers in the state.

The sanctions for a commercial driver who is found guilty of driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs are severe. The severe penalties for a CDL DUI include lengthy license suspensions which hinder commercial drivers from earning income to provide for themselves and their families. Since livelihoods are at stake, defending against a CDL DUI charge is crucial for commercial drivers who have been arrested or convicted for intoxicated driving. If you or a loved one has been arrested for a DUI, contact our criminal defense law firm today at (847) 616-9993 for a free case review.

What Happens When a CDL Driver Gets a DUI?

CDL holders are held to a higher standard than other driver’s license holders, especially with impaired driving. Regular license holders are charged for DUI with a blood alcohol content of 0.08. However, for drivers operating commercial vehicles, the legal limit is only 0.04.

Further, commercial drivers are subject to Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) requirements. For instance, the FMCSA regulation states commercial drivers can’t use alcohol four hours before operating a commercial vehicle.

The criminal penalties for a commercial DUI in Illinois depend on how many previous DUI convictions you have and other specific circumstances in the DUI CDL case:

  • First-Time Commercial drunk driving Offenders. A first-time DUI conviction is punishable by fines of up to $1,000, a one-year CDL license suspension, and up to one year in jail. This means that commercial truck drivers won’t be allowed to drive their trucks for an entire year. But if their vehicle needs a HAZMAT placard--for hauling hazardous waste--the DUI offense could be treated more seriously with a potential three-year license suspension period. 
  • Second-Time Commercial drunk driving Offenses. 2nd DUI offenses for CDL holders cause commercial license revocation, this is a lifetime loss of the CDL. However, in Illinois, some commercial drivers are eligible to complete an alcohol awareness program to have their CDL license reinstated after ten years of suspension.
DUI Penalties for CDL Drivers in Illinois

Further, if there are aggravated situations, criminal penalties for drunk driving may be elevated. Aggravating circumstances may include refusal to submit to the mandatory chemical testing, driving with a blood alcohol concentration of 0.15 or higher, and a drunk driving-related accident.

The suspension period isn’t a minor matter for people who rely on their CDL for an income. In fact, a driver’s license suspension for impaired driving often causes the professional driver to be fired by their employer. The stain that a DUI puts on a driver's driving and criminal history is enough to prevent them from getting more in the future, even after the license suspension period has elapsed.

Note these heightened penalties apply regardless of whether you were driving professionally at the time of your drunk driving arrest; commercial drivers will face these severe penalties in any DUI case, even though they were driving their personal car at the time of the DUI arrest.

Does a DUI Disqualify You from a CDL?

A drunk driving charge can cause disqualification for a CDL holder on either of these grounds:

  1. Guilt finding no matter the sentence.
  2. A statutory summary suspension for refusing to submit to chemical tests, such as blood, urine, and breath tests.

These regulations are set out in the Code of Federal Regulations, and thus they apply to CDL holders from all states. Drunk driving charges from any state have the same criminal penalties for a CDL, no matter the state from which the driver has a CDL.

A DUI offender doesn’t have to be guilty of DUI to have the CDL canceled. The statutory summary suspension for refusing a breathalyzer test alone is enough to cancel a CDL.

An individual who has a CDL can lose their CDL for either a DUI charge or summary suspension regardless of whether he or she was driving a commercial motor vehicle (CMV) or if the DUI arrest in a personal car.

Any commercial driver with a Hazmat endorsement is subject to additional penalties. If the driver was operating a commercial vehicle transporting hazardous material (Hazmat), then there are subject to enhanced penalties. A DUI while operating a Hazmat vehicle, or a refusal of chemical testing, results in 3 years of CDL disqualification. 

If a commercial driver was driving a CMV and chemical testing showed a blood alcohol level of 0.04 or more, then their CDL is canceled for one year. This rule applies even though the driver wasn’t convicted of drunk driving. This is because the legal limit for driving commercial vehicles is lower than for ordinary vehicles.

If you’re found guilty of a second DUI, regardless of the sentence imposed, you’re subject to permanent disqualification from holding a CDL.

How Do I Get My CDL Back after a DUI?

A commercial driver who is facing a DUI arrest can protect his CDL by challenging the license suspension and DUI charge in court.

In Illinois, the legal process for challenging the summary suspension is a petition to rescind. Once a driver files the petition to rescind, he or she has a right to a court hearing within 30 days. If the arresting police officer doesn’t appear in court, this may cause the summary suspension to be rescinded.

Our attorneys are here to help defend you from DUI penalties and keep your CDL.

A DUI offense is a criminal offense, and thus, a driver is presumed innocent until proven guilty. The prosecution must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the defendant is guilty. If your DUI lawyer can show that the field sobriety testing was unreliable, or that the breathalyzer test malfunctioned, you might be acquitted.

Does a DUI Affect Getting a CDL?

A commercial driver who is charged with DUI automatically loses their Commercial Driver’s License (CDL). This prevents the driver from driving commercial vehicles or getting a hardship license.

If a person has been convicted of DUI while driving a commercial vehicle, he or she must wait until their disqualification period lapses before they can have their CDL back. Also, they must pay an additional disqualification reinstatement fee for their CDL reinstatement. The disqualification period depends on the circumstances of the DUI arrest. 

If you or a loved one have recently been charged with DUI, contact a DUI criminal defense lawyer at Dohman Law Group today. We can get your DUI charge dismissed or reduced so that you can hold on to your license. Our defense team has decades of experience fighting DUI charges and we can help you fight your DUI case, even if you’re facing severe penalties for a DUI charge. We are available 24/7 call our Chicago law offices today at (847) 616-9993 for a no-cost initial consultation.

Our Attorneys Are Here to Fight DUI Penalties for CDL Drivers

A drunk driving conviction carries severe criminal penalties. However, for commercial truck drivers, the consequences are far worse. If you’re a CDL holder who has been charged with a drunk driving offense, you need strong legal representation by your side to advocate fiercely for your rights and interests.

At Dohman Law Group, we understand what is at stake when a commercial driver is facing the potential loss of their CDL over a drunk driving offense. Our DUI criminal defense lawyers have extensive experience successfully defending clients charged for DUI in Rolling Meadows, Waukegan, Elgin, Lombard, Aurora, and throughout Illinois. We work closely with our clients to analyze thoroughly their DUI cases and formulate the most effective defense strategy to mitigate the situation as much as possible.

To schedule a consultation with one of our experienced DUI defense lawyers, call our today office at (847) 616-9993, or send us a message through our online contact form.

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