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For the thousands of Texans with commercial driver’s licenses who need their CDL license to keep their job and support their family, getting a DWI in Texas can severely limit those abilities. A DWI in Texas conviction or a DUI in Texas conviction can cause the loss of a CDL license or the inability to obtain a CDL license. There is a criminal process associated with a DWI in Texas, as well as an administrative process. These two processes are independent of one another; both can benefit from having an experienced Sullo & Sullo Houston DWI lawyer.
Preventing the Loss of Your CDL License - More importantly, a conviction for a DWI in Texas could result in the loss of your CDL license for a period of time. If you were operating a commercial vehicle under your CDL license when you were arrested for DWI in Texas, you will be issued a temporary driving permit which will expire in 41 days from the date of issuance. This 41-day temporary license allows you to continue driving your commercial vehicle for 41 days. If you refused a chemical test, you have 15 days to request an administrative hearing to contest your CDL license suspension.
Otherwise, you have 20 days in which to request a DPS administrative hearing to contest your CDL license suspension. If you are not successful at your ALR hearing, then your CDL license will be disqualified for one year—unless you were driving a commercial vehicle with hazardous materials placards. If you were driving a hazardous materials vehicle, then the penalty is the loss of your CDL license for three years.
Should you fail to request an ALR hearing within the 15 or 20-day period, your regular driver’s license will be suspended for 180 days, and your CDL will be suspended for one year. You can, however, speak to a highly qualified Sullo & Sullo Houston DWI attorney who can argue on your behalf at the ALR hearing. The Texas DPS must prove—by a preponderance of evidence—that:
- The police officer had reasonable suspicion or probable cause to arrest your for DWI in Texas;
- You were in actual control of the vehicle at the time you were stopped;
- You were intoxicated at the time you were stopped;
- You were taken into custody;
- You were informed (both orally and in writing) of the consequences of refusing or failing a breath or blood test, and
- You either refused to take the breath or blood test or you failed the breath or blood test.
Criminal Penalties for a DWI Conviction with a CDL License - If you possess a CDL license, it is illegal, in the state of Texas, to drive with a blood alcohol content level at 0.04 percent or above. This legal limit is set by the State of Texas, as well as by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration. A driver with a Texas CDL license who is charged with DWI in Texas could be convicted of a Class B misdemeanor. This offense carries a minimum jail sentence of three days, a potential jail sentence of not more than 180 days and fines up to $2,000.
Lower Standards at Administrative Hearing than at a Criminal Trial - The standards are much lower at an administrative hearing on the part of DPS than they will be at your criminal trial. Since you have such a limited amount of time to prepare for your DPS hearing, having a knowledgeable Houston DWI attorney by your side who can examine the facts of your case, creating a solid strategy on your behalf is essential. The officer may not have had probable cause to pull you over in the first place, or may have committed other errors when arresting you. At your ALR hearing, your Houston criminal defense attorney will have the opportunity to cross-examine the police officer, using the information gleaned during the DPS hearing to begin building a defense for your criminal case. If you lose your DPS hearing, your attorney can appeal that decision within 30 days.
Your attorney understands that your livelihood is at stake, and will fight hard on your behalf. If DPS approves the appeal request, your CDL suspension will be removed for a period of 90 days. Regardless of how your DPS hearing goes, it is important to remember that a third DWI in Texas offense (or other felony committed while using your commercial vehicle) will result in the disqualification of your CDL license for life. Whether this is your first, second or third DWI offense while possessing a CDL license, there is also the possibility of facing civil penalties under the Federal Motor Carriers Safety Administration (FMCSA).
Who Will Tell Your Boss About Your DWI? Texas law says if you are convicted for DWI in Texas you have seven days to report the conviction to both your boss and to the Texas Department of Public Safety. Under Federal Regulations, you have thirty days from the date of your Texas DWI conviction to report the conviction to your employer and to the Department of Public Safety. Once you receive notification that your commercial driver’s license has been suspended, you have until the end of that business day to notify your employer regarding the suspension. If you are counting on obtaining an occupational license so you are able to continue driving for your employer, you need to know that Texas only provides for occupational licenses for Class C driving privileges, with no statutory or legal method to getting an occupational CDL license.
Defenses to DWI in Texas Charges While Operating a Commercial Vehicle - Because you face not only jail time and large fines, as well as a CDL disqualification, defending your DWI charges is extremely important for you, your job, your livelihood and your family. Your attorney will look for any hole in the Harris County district attorney’s case against you, whether that hole comes in the form of lack of reasonable suspicion to pull you over in the first place, problems with your field sobriety tests, issues with your breathalyzer or blood test, or other issues.
Perhaps you had a momentary lapse in judgment, or perhaps you truly are not guilty of the offense you are being charged with. Either way, your experienced Houston DWI attorney understands what is at stake, and will build your defense with this in mind. The jury cannot find you guilty, unless your guilt is proven beyond a reasonable doubt, therefore if the required elements are not present, or any doubt exists, your attorney can present a persuasive argument on your behalf.
Applying for a CDL After a DWI Conviction - Generally speaking, you must have a good driving record to obtain a Texas Commercial Driver’s License. A DWI on your record can prevent you from obtaining a CDL license, even if you are otherwise well-qualified. If this is your first DWI offense, you may still be able to secure a CDL license, however with two or more DWIs on your record you could be disqualified from obtaining a CDL for life. There are other reasons you could be disqualified for life from obtaining a CDL license, including:
- Leaving the scene of an accident;
- Committing any felony using a motor vehicle;
- Driving with a suspended or revoked driver’s license;
- Causing the death of another human, whether due to negligence or a criminal act;
Even if you currently do not hold a CDL license, if you think you might ever want to obtain a commercial driver’s license, it is important for there to be no blemishes on your driving record—like a DWI conviction or a conviction for any of the above offenses. If you are facing DWI or other serious charges which could affect your ability to obtain a CDL license, contact a knowledgeable Houston DWI lawyer as quickly as possible.
Speaking to a Sullo & Sullo Houston DWI attorney is your best course of action after being charged with a DWI in Texas, whether your CDL license is on the line, or your regular driver’s license is in jeopardy. The penalties for a DWI in Texas are harsh, and can include Harris County jail time and Harris County criminal records. Further, you do not want to face the Harris County District Attorney on your own, as most individuals simply do not have the skills and knowledge necessary to fight DWI charges on their own. Do not wait—the sooner you contact an experienced Sullo & Sullo Houston DWI attorney, the quicker we can build a solid defense on your behalf, working hard to preserve your commercial driver’s license.