For many Tennesseans, holding a Commercial Driver’s License (CDL) isn’t just a job—it’s a livelihood. Driving commercial vehicles such as semi-trucks, buses, or delivery vans is a skilled profession that comes with great responsibility. It’s no surprise that the regulations governing CDL holders are especially stringent. One of the most significant ways a CDL holder can find themselves in jeopardy is by facing a DUI charge. In this blog post, we will examine the unique implications a DUI charge has on CDL holders in Tennessee and what steps should be taken.
The Legal Limit for CDL Holders
When it comes to DUI offenses, CDL holders are held to a higher standard compared to regular drivers. Under Tennessee law, a commercial driver operating a commercial vehicle is considered impaired with a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of just 0.04%, compared to the standard 0.08% for non-commercial drivers. This low threshold means that even a single drink could put you at risk. It’s also important to note that DUI charges can also stem from drug impairment as well. When a CDL driver is driving a non-commercial vehicle, the legal limit remains at the .08% threshold, but it is lowered when driving a commercial vehicle due to the inherent dangerous nature of driving a commercial vehicle and the serious injuries an accident can cause.
The Penalties: Beyond Fines and Jail Time
If you’re a CDL holder who has been arrested for a DUI, the immediate implications are severe. If convicted of DUI, your CDL will be automatically revoked for a period of one year, even if it’s your first offense. This revocation period increases to a lifetime disqualification if you are convicted of a second DUI offense while operating a commercial vehicle.
The impact on your employment can be substantial. A DUI conviction typically results in job loss or a significant suspension, given that most employers have stringent policies against DUI offenses for CDL holders. Future employment opportunities in the commercial driving industry could also be prohibited.
Criminal Record and Background Checks
A DUI conviction will appear on your criminal record, which is accessible during any future background checks for employment or other opportunities. In Tennessee, a DUI conviction stays on your criminal record indefinitely, posing an obstacle during background checks. This long-lasting stain can make it difficult to move forward, both professionally and personally.
Building a Defense: The Role of an Attorney
If you’re a CDL holder facing a DUI charge, taking immediate action is vital. An experienced DUI attorney is instrumental in preserving your career, leveraging their extensive knowledge of CDL-specific laws in Tennessee to form a robust defense strategy.
Facilitating Communication with Your Employer
Facing a DUI charge is a delicate matter, particularly concerning your employment. A DUI attorney can guide you on how to discuss the situation with your employer and can even offer to communicate directly with them, providing clarification on legal processes and timelines. This can be instrumental in retaining your job while your case is pending.
Challenging BAC Tests and Field Sobriety Tests
Accuracy matters, especially when your career is on the line. Your attorney can scrutinize the Blood Alcohol Concentration (BAC) and field sobriety tests that led to your charge. They will investigate potential flaws, from equipment calibration to procedural errors, aiming to cast doubt on the prosecution’s evidence.
Scrutinizing the Traffic Stop and Assessing Officer Conduct
The initial traffic stop and the conduct of law enforcement officers during your arrest are critical elements in any DUI case. Your attorney will evaluate the legality of the traffic stop, ensuring that there was a legitimate reason for it. Any procedural errors or rights violations by officers can also be brought to light, potentially weakening the prosecution’s case.
Negotiating Reduced Penalties or Alternative Sentencing
When avoiding a conviction is not feasible, the focus shifts to minimizing the impact on your CDL and employment. Your attorney can negotiate for reduced penalties or advocate for alternative sentencing options, such as DUI education programs, to lessen the blow on your career prospects.
Don’t Leave Your Future To Chance
Facing a DUI charge as a CDL holder in Tennessee has significant and far-reaching implications. Your career, future employment opportunities, and even your personal life can be greatly impacted. Due to the stakes at hand, it is essential to consult with experienced defense attorneys to navigate the legal process effectively.
If you find yourself in this precarious situation, you don’t have to go through it alone. Reach out to the skilled defense attorneys at Barnes & Fersten for a consultation. Our legal team is experienced in defending DUI cases for CDL holders in Tennessee. Your livelihood is too important to leave to chance; let us help you build a strong defense. Contact us today.
Attorney At Law, Managing Partner
Brandon D. Fersten is an esteemed Knoxville attorney practicing DUI, criminal defense, and juvenile law. Known for his empathetic approach and commitment to his clients, he brings a record of favorable case outcomes including dismissals and not guilty verdicts at jury trials resulting in Brandon being recognized as one of the “Top 40 Under 40” in Criminal Defense, U.S. News’ Best Lawyers: “Ones to Watch,” and Super Lawyers’ “Rising Stars”. Brandon’s professional accolades, combined with his passion for justice, position him as a reliable criminal defense advocate in the East Tennessee legal landscape.