Washington already prosecutes driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs in a harsh manner, but for people with a commercial driver’s license (CDL), the consequences can be even more severe. Since their jobs involve following the rules of the road and operating their vehicles in a safe manner, CDL holders can face harsher license revocation and law enforcement officers hold them to a lower standard for blood alcohol tests than other drivers.
If you are a CDL holder who is facing charges for a driving under the influence, hiring a DUI lawyer can help you navigate through these administrative and criminal penalties.
What is Considered a DUI?
In the state of Washington, the blood alcohol concentration (BAC) for driving a commercial vehicle while under the influence of alcohol or drugs are stricter than the thresholds for personal vehicles. For a non-commercial driver, his or her BAC has to be .08% or higher to receive a DUI charge. For commercial drivers, the BAC threshold is .04% or higher.
If they suspect you of DUI, police officers will pull you over and ask you to submit to a chemical test to determine your BAC. Refusing to take this test will result in driver’s license revocation for up to four years and harsher criminal penalties, depending on your number of previous offenses.
Criminal Penalties for DUIs in Washington State
Criminal penalties for driving under the influence in Washington vary based on the number of previous offenses you have on your record, your BAC at the time of arrest, and whether or not the DUI resulted in property damage, injury, or death.
- A first-offense DUI conviction will result in a fine between $350 and $5,000 and between 1 to 364 days in jail — with at least one mandatory day in jail. Instead of this one day, you could serve 15 days on house arrest or 90 days in a 24/7 sobriety program.
- A second-offense DUI conviction will lead to a fine between $500 to $5,000 and 30 to 364 days in jail. In lieu of jail, you could also serve four days in prison and 120 days on the mandatory sobriety program or 180 days on house arrest.
- Third and subsequent-offense DUI convictions can lead to jail sentences between 90 to 364 days, as well as a fine between $1,000 and $5,000. You may also need to participate in six months of a 24/7 sobriety program.
How Can a DUI Impact Your CDL?
In addition to criminal penalties, drivers convicted of DUI face administrative sanctions and consequences as well. For commercial drivers, a DUI conviction can seriously harm your ability to continue to perform your job.
For a first-offense DUI, the state will revoke your CDL for up to 1 year, or 3 years if you transport hazardous materials. For a second-offense DUI, the state will revoke your CDL for life. If a BAC test shows that you have any measurable amount of alcohol in your system below .04%, the police will ban you from driving for 24 hours. If your company finds out that you received a DUI or that the police issued you a driving ban, you can face serious consequences or even lose your job.
Why You Need a Lawyer for Your DUI Case
Since commercial drivers are responsible for the safe transport of goods and materials across the country, the state prosecutes and punishes CDL holders severely for DUI. If you are facing these charges, you need an attorney on your side who can help reduce your charges and advocate for your story.
Your attorney can connect with the resources necessary to help collect evidence and build your case, as well as guide you through the criminal and administrative penalty processes. He or she can also help you prepare for important court dates and advocate for your needs during negotiations, hearings, and trials.
If you have not yet contacted an attorney to assist you with your DUI case, it is in your best interest to schedule a consultation as soon as you can. Having an attorney on your side can provide significant benefits that a public defender or self-representation cannot match. Depending on the circumstances of your case, you can see reduced jail sentences, lower fines, and a lower risk of license revocation by investing in a DUI defense attorney.