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Commercial Driver’s License DUI – Vehicle Code 23152(D)

Driving a commercial vehicle with a BAC of 0.04% or higher is a crime under California Vehicle Code §23152 (d).

Normally, the BAC limit is 0.08%. However, the limit is lowered to 0.04% when the driver is driving a commercial vehicle. These BAC limits are strict and do not matter whether someone driving is impaired by alcohol.

Effect of DUI to a Commercial Driver

A DUI conviction in California has criminal and administrative consequences. This means that a DUI conviction will have criminal penalties and the DMV can suspend a driver’s commercial license.

A commercial driver will deal with these repercussions if:

  • The driver was caught driving a commercial vehicle with a BAC of 0.04%
  • The driver was caught driving a non-commercial vehicle with a BAC of 0.08%
  • The driver was driving any vehicle while impaired by alcohol or drugs

Criminal Penalties

These are some of the court penalties that a commercial driver may face is convicted for a first time DUI:

  • Summary probation
  • Up to 1 year in county jail
  • Fines between $390 and $1000, AND/OR
  • Court-ordered California DUI school for 3 to 36 months[1]

Penalties increase with more convictions. In addition to these penalties, if a commercial driver is also convicted for DUI causing injury under Vehicle Code §23153, regardless of whether they were driving a commercial or non-commercial vehicle, the driver can be charged with a felony.

California Commercial Driver’s License Suspension

Not only will there be court-ordered penalties for the DUI, but the DMV can also suspend the driver's license for at least 1 year.[2] The suspension will still apply even though the driver was not driving a commercial vehicle at the time the offense was committed.

The suspension will also apply if the driver refuses to take a breath test or blood test.

Second DUI – Loss of Commercial Driver’s License for Life

A second DUI will mean the permanent loss of the commercial driver’s license. This is stated under California and federal law.[3]

Due to the stringent DUI laws when it comes to drivers with commercial driver’s licenses, these drivers must fight any DUI charge vigorously.

To provide you with a better understanding of how commercial DUI works, our West Covina DUI defense attorneys discuss the following:

  • Commercial Driver’s License and Vehicles
  • Commercial DUI Laws in California
  • DUI for Commercial Drivers
  • Penalties for Violation of California Vehicle Code §23152 (d)
  • Refusing to Take a Chemical Test after Being Arrested for a DUI
  • Obtaining a Restricted License After a Commercial DUI
  • Defenses Against Commercial DUI
  • Plea Bargaining in Commercial DUI cases

1. Commercial Driver’s License and Vehicles

Under California law, commercial vehicles are any vehicle or combination of vehicles that require a class A or class B license, or a class C license with an endorsement issued according to paragraph (2), (3), (4), or (5) of subdivision (a) of California Vehicle Code §15278.[4]

There are three types of commercial driver’s license:[5]

  • Class A – License for any legal combination of vehicles with a gross combination weight rating (GCWR) of 26,001 pounds or more, provided the gross vehicle weight rating (GVWR) of the vehicle(s) being towed is in excess of 10,000 pounds
  • Class B – License for any single vehicle with a GVWR of more than 26,000 pounds, any such vehicle towing a vehicle not in excess of 10,000 pounds GVWR, or a 3-axle vehicle weighing over 6,000 pounds
  • Class C – License for Class C vehicles with endorsements for hazardous materials, passenger vehicle, and tank vehicle. A Class C vehicle is any 2-axle vehicle with a GVW rating of 26,000 lbs. or less, including when such vehicle is towing a trailer with a GVW rating of 10,000 lbs. or less; any 3-axle vehicle weighing 6,000 lbs. or less; any 2-axle vehicle weighing 4,000 lbs. or more unladen when towing a trailer not exceeding 10,000 lbs. GVW rating; any motor home of 40 feet in length or less; any 5th wheel trailer under 10,000 lbs. if not for hire or under 15,000 lbs. with endorsement; or vehicle towing another vehicle with a GVW rating of 10,000 lbs. or less

2. Commercial DUI Laws in California

The California statute that deals primarily with commercial DUI is California Vehicle Code §23152 (d). It states:

“(d) It is unlawful for a person who has 0.04 percent or more, by weight, of alcohol in his or her blood to drive a commercial motor vehicle, as defined in Section 15210. In any prosecution under this subdivision, it is a rebuttable presumption that the person had 0.04 percent or more, by weight, of alcohol in his or her blood at the time of driving the vehicle if the person had 0.04 percent or more, by weight, of alcohol in his or her blood at the time of the performance of a chemical test within three hours after the driving.”

3. DUI for Commercial Drivers

DUI laws are stricter when it comes to commercial drivers. Here are some common ways that a commercial driver can be convicted of a DUI

Under the Influence of Alcohol

A person is considered to be “under the influence” when:

  • Their physical and mental abilities are greatly impaired
  • They can no longer drive with the caution of a sober person using the ordinary care, under the same circumstances

This is primarily covered under California Vehicle Code §23152 (a).

BAC over the legal limit

There are different legal limits set under California law. The normal legal limit for any driver is a BAC of 0.08%. For commercial drivers, the legal limit is set lower to a BAC of 0.04%.

This is also known as “DUI per se.” This means that even if you are not exhibiting signs that you are under the influence, so long as your BAC is on or above the legal limits mentioned, then you will be charged under Vehicle Code §23152 (b) for non-commercial drivers, and Vehicle Code §23152 (d) for commercial drivers.

Under the Influence of Drugs

It also considered a DUI if a driver drives under the influence of any drug[6] or the combination of any drug and alcohol.[7] This is commonly known as DUID or driving under the influence of drugs.

4. Penalties for Violation of California Vehicle Code §23152 (d)

First DUI - When No Third Party Injured

A first time DUI without any third party injured can be punished with:

  • Summary probation for three to five years
  • Up to six months in county jail
  • Fines and penalty assessments which can range from $1500 to $2000
  • Three months of DUI school[8]
  • Suspension of license for at least 1 year

The penalties are similar to regular DUI but the suspension is usually longer for commercial drivers.

Second DUI - Loss of Commercial Driver’s License for Life

A second DUI for a commercial driver will mean the permanent loss of the driver’s license. It is in the best interest of a commercial driver to contact an experienced DUI attorney immediately after being charged with a second DUI.

DUI Resulting in Injury

A DUI resulting in injury is covered under California Vehicle Code §23153. This is a wobbler offense, meaning it can be charged as a misdemeanor or felony.

Misdemeanor DUI Resulting in Injury

As a misdemeanor, the penalties are:

  • Summary probation for three to five years
  • Five days to one year in county jail
  • Fines ranging between $390-$5000
  • Court approved alcohol or drug education program (3, 9, 18, or 30 months)
  • License suspension that can range between one year to three years
  • Restitution

Felony DUI Resulting in Injury

As a felony, a driver can be incarcerated in a California state prison. The sentence will depend on:

  • Prior DUI or reckless driving convictions
  • Number of people injured
  • Extend of the injuries caused

The conviction will also count as one strike under the Three Strikes law if a person suffers great bodily injury.

The sentence may also include any of the following:

  • Fines ranging between $1015 to $5000
  • 18 or 30 months of DUI school
  • Habitual Traffic Offender status under California Vehicle Code §14601.3 (for 3 years)
  • License revocation for 5 years

5. Refusing to Take a Chemical Test After Being Arrested for a DUI

Refusing to take a breath test or blood test after being arrested for DUI will result in the automatic suspension of your license by the DMV. It can also increase jail time if you already have DUI prior.

Penalties for refusing any chemical test:

  • With no priors - 48 hours extra in county jail, an extra 6 months of DUI school, and 1-year license suspension
  • With one (1) DUI prior - 96 extra hours in county jail, 2 years license suspension
  • With two (2) DUI priors – 10 extra days in county jail, 3 years license suspension
  • With three (3) or more DUI priors – 18 extra days in county jail, 3 years license suspension

6. Obtaining a Restricted License After a Commercial DUI

There is no such thing as a restricted commercial driving license. However, a commercial driver may opt to downgrade to a non-commercial class license so they may be able to obtain a restricted license that will allow them to drive a non-commercial vehicle.

With a restricted license, a driver may still drive to and from work, drive themselves or a family member to a medical facility for any serious medical emergencies, or even drive a minor to and from school if public transportation is not available.

If you opt for an ignition interlock device restricted license, you will still be able to drive anywhere provided there is an ignition interlock device installed in your vehicle.

7. Defenses Against Commercial DUI

Fighting against a commercial DUI is very similar to fighting off a regular DUI. Below is a list of possible defenses. However, defenses are not limited to those listed below and will depend on the circumstances revolving around your case.

  • Presence of medical condition which could have affected the results of the chemical test
  • Rising blood alcohol level when the test was taken
  • Police officers not following the strict protocols for conducting the DUI tests as found in Title 17 of the California Code of Regulations such as: pulling over a driver without probable cause for the traffic stop; failure to follow procedure when giving DUI chemical test, failure to read Miranda rights, failure to advise the driver of the consequences of refusing to take the chemical test; and failure to follow such other such protocols

8. Plea Bargaining in Commercial DUI cases

Plea bargaining for a lower penalty is possible in the case of commercial DUI. Due to the severe penalties involved in commercial DUI, a plea bargain to a lower offense is worth the consideration. You can bargain for either a “wet reckless” or a “dry reckless.”

A “wet reckless” is the informal name given to a crime that a person charged with DUI pleads guilty or no contest to as part of a plea agreement. It is the functional equivalent of reckless driving. A wet reckless will also indicate a reference if the offense involved alcohol or drugs.

A “dry reckless” is similar to a wet reckless but the main difference is that it is a reckless driving charge not involving alcohol, and it will not indicate a reference if the offense involved alcohol or drugs. It also not “priorable” offense unlike a wet reckless.

Commercial DUI happens. Losing your license and going to jail don’t have to.

A DUI charge is a difficult thing to manage and navigate on your own A commercial DUI and its harsher penalties can be even more complicated if you are not a seasoned DUI defense attorney. You will want to consult and secure the services of an experienced DUI defense attorney to assist you in navigating the legal complexities of these charges. You will want to avoid a conviction at all costs because it can have severe effects on your life. Although we are fielding inquiries from a lot of people in similar situations, we will do our best to put you in contact with an experienced DUI lawyer from our firm.

If you need assistance with a commercial DUI, do not hesitate to contact us at (626) 827-7222 to schedule your consultation with one of our experienced DUI attorneys at no cost.


[1] California Vehicle Code §23152, §23538, §23540, §23546

[2] California Vehicle Code §15300

[3] California Vehicle Code §15302 and 49 Code of Federal Regulations §383.51

[4] California Vehicle Code §15210 (b) (1)

[5] Please see https://www.dmv.ca.gov/portal/driver-licenses-identification-cards/commercial-driver-licenses-cdl/commercial-driver-license-classes-certifications/

[6] California Vehicle Code §23512 (f)

[7] California Vehicle Code §23152 (g)

[8] Assembly Bill 541

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