Drunk driving. It doesn’t take any real effort to convince someone of the danger and waste of life caused by it. Each person is at least one relationship removed from someone who has had their life impacted by a drunk driver. Thankfully, over the last 30 years, the number of fatal crashes in Illinois due to alcohol has been on the decline…but every death or serious injury is still one too many. Seat belt usage, safer cars, education campaigns, and better engineered roads have all played a part in this. Enforcement, however, is the universal deterrent that keeps drunk drivers off the road and begins the justice process for the offense. When it comes to CDL holders drinking and driving, there is a lot of confusion.
The first thing to understand is the definition of a commercial motor vehicle as it pertains to DUI. Different arenas of truck enforcement have different definitions of a CMV, but as it matters to DUI, a CMV is any vehicle or combination of vehicles that requires a commercial driver’s license.
The second point to understand is that a CDL holder has in essence two different licenses…an operator’s license and a CDL. If the CDL holder is operating a non-CDL vehicle under the influence, he is in trouble and his operator license can be suspended or revoked, also known as a “stop”. A CDL holder cannot have a stop on his operator’s license and maintain a valid CDL simultaneously. If the base license is gone, so goes the privileged CDL. It is possible to have a CDL disqualified for reasons other than DUI and still maintain a valid operator’s license. But if a CDL holder gets a DUI while driving a CMV, both licenses will be stopped.
The real confusion lies in the understanding the difference between the criminal charge of DUI while operating a CMV and administrative penalties for having any blood alcohol level at all. The crime of DUI is the same regardless of vehicle (625 ILCS 5/11-501A2) and the per se BAC is .08 (625 ILCS 5/11-501A1). While it is possible to be convicted of the criminal charge of DUI with a BAC less than .08, it is rare.
CDL holders routinely hear that a BAC of .04 constitutes a DUI. This is incorrect. CDL holders also learn that if their BAC is a .04 or more, it does not matter if they are in a CMV or non-CMV, they are subject to a DUI. This is also incorrect.
Much like zero tolerance for persons under age 21, there are administrative sanctions for CDL holders when there is any trace of alcohol in their system they are operating a CMV…but it is not criminal DUI. CDL holders are subject to lower BAC standards only while operating a vehicle or combination of vehicles that require a CDL.
if the driver has any trace of blood alcohol, he is immediately placed out-of-service for 24-hours (even non-Illinois State Police officers can use that term in this instance).
if the BAC is .04 but less than .08, the CDL is automatically disqualified for 12 months
if the BAC reaches .08 or more, the criminal charge of DUI per se applies.
A refusal to submit to testing requested by a police officer will also disqualify the CDL for 12-months, and that applies to CDL holders when operating both CMVs and non-CMV’s. For instance, if a CDL holder refuses to submit to testing after being stopped in his personal car, he could possibly beat the DUI rap, but the CDL will still be disqualified. Also any amount of a drug or other intoxicating compounds will disqualify the CDL and subject the driver to a criminal charge of DUI.
Obtaining a CDL is not as easy as some believe, and professional drivers understand they are held to a higher standard. There is no sense in jeopardizing the license, the job, or someone else’s life. Before the truck hits the road, the CDL holder needs to be sobered up and completely purged of alcohol from the night before…there’s a lot at stake.