I like to tell my clients that there is a special ring in hell for people with commercial driver’s licenses (CDL); if a commercial driver is impaired by a drug, or has a blood-alcohol level greater than 0.04% within two hours, they are guilty of driving under the influence, but where the special rings of hell come into play for commercial driver’s licenses is if they get what’s described as a “conviction for DUI”; even if they’re not driving commercially at the time of the incident, they get a one-year revocation of the CDL. For CDL purposes, a “conviction for DUI” can mean a conviction in court, or a finding in a Motor Vehicle Department proceeding. For example, if there is a finding in a MVD hearing on an admin per se suspension that the alcohol level is more than 0.08%, that also constitutes a “conviction for DUI” even if it is not guilty in court. If that happens their CDL will be revoked for one-year, even if the case is never prosecuted or dismissed in court, or is reduced to reckless driving.
If someone has two “convictions for DUI” since 1990, again, either in court or in a MVD proceeding, even if they didn’t have a CDL in 1990, their CDL is revoked for life. Recently I represented a client who 15 years ago had a DUI case reduced to Reckless Driving. However because in that case his license had been suspended in a MVD proceeding because the alcohol level was .08%, therefore he had a “conviction for DUI”. Because of that “conviction for DUI”, even though he had never been convicted in court before, upon a suspension in the MVD proceeding he got a second, “conviction for DUI” and was banned for life from having a CDL.
If someone who has a CDL has been arrested or even only served with an admin per se or refusal suspension, even if the driver requests a hearing to contest the suspension, a notation of “conviction for DUI” will go on the driver’s Arizona CDL MVD record even though in fact nothing has yet happened. Even if we request a hearing to contest the proposed suspension, the CDL driver will get a notice in the mail saying their CDL has been revoked for at least 12 months because of a “conviction for DUI”, again, even though at this point there has been no DUI conviction or even license suspension. If their employer finds out about it and gets a copy of the MVD record it will show up as a “conviction for DUI”. That makes it difficult because I have to explain to both the client and their employer that, just because the MVD record shows a revocation, there hasn’t been. It usually leads to the company’s insurance company cancelling the CDL driver’s license company insurance, all before there has been any suspension or conviction.
If the person is driving commercially here in Arizona, police generally know how they can check someone’s record if they’re stopped for any reason, such as when they go through an inspection station; they know how to check the record and know that, even though the MVD record says it’s revoked, that it really isn’t because a hearing may be pending.
Within the state officers can check it, but out-of-state, they really don’t; time and time again, I’ve received calls from clients who’ve been stopped in Utah or somewhere else, and the check comes back as the license is revoked and the officer doesn’t understand why it’s not revoked when the motor vehicle record says it is. Like I said, there are special rings of hell for people with CDLs. Two convictions since 1990 is 25 years, and the two convictions don’t even just mean convictions in court, but they can result in a lifetime ban, even when driving in your own vehicle. Those are the problems that CDL holders have with cases.
In terms of underage DUI, if someone is under 21, they’re subject to the separate offense of driving with alcohol in the body, which carries no mandatory jail, but there is a mandatory two-year license suspension, for which they can get the interlock. When someone is driving under the influence, at the level of 0.08%, there is nothing magical about that, but there are people with a blood-alcohol level less than 0.08% can be found guilty of driving while impaired, whether it’s a low alcohol level of 0.05% or they’ve taken some drug that may leave them impaired.
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