If you are driving or operating a commercial vehicle in Arizona, the law expects you to be more careful than a regular vehicle driver. Driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs is a crime in Arizona, just like most states. However, a DUI with a commercial driving license is severely punished and could result in losing your livelihood and other legal punishments.
If you hold a commercial driver's license in Arizona, you can drive common carrier vehicles and regular vehicles. The punishments for driving while impaired by drugs or alcohol are priorable, meaning that they become steeper for every subsequent offense. If you face accusations for driving while impaired with a commercial driver's license, you should find a criminal attorney to represent you. At Phoenix Criminal Attorney, we are experienced in DUI laws and will passionately fight the charges against you.
Understanding DUI and its Effects on your CDL in Arizona
The economy of Arizona is highly dependent on the transport industry. As a result, there are many drivers with commercial driver's licenses, which they use to find jobs. DUI regulations and laws are strict on commercial vehicle drivers in Arizona. If you want a CDL or are a driver in Arizona, familiarizing yourself with DUI laws is critical to avoid the repercussions that come with breaking the law.
If you are applying for a CDL with a previous DUI, you will still have it, but your prior record will be considered. If you have a suspended standard driver's license and want to have a commercial driver's license, your application will be rejected. Typically, an offense for drunk driving in Arizona results in the suspension of your driver's license. However, when your suspension period lapses, you can apply to have a commercial driver's license, and it is likely to be granted.
Even as you apply for the CDL in Arizona, any prior DUI conviction, even in a different state, must be mentioned. If you hide this fact and it is established later, your application is rejected. With a forthright and complete application for a CDL, your application is granted even with a previous DUI conviction. The exclusion of your past DUI offense only results in a denial, irrespective of how long ago the DUI occurred.
Having DUI Charges with a CDL
The state of Arizona has guidelines for alcohol limits in your body as you drive. Usually, regular vehicle drivers are allowed to go as long as their BAC is below 0.08%. On the other hand, commercial vehicle drivers are held at higher regard and steeper expectations. Commercial vehicle drivers in Arizona are prohibited from driving with a BAC of 0.04% or over.
If, as a holder of a commercial driver's license, you are arrested for suspected intoxicated driving, the BAC level, in this case, should not be above 0.08%. If this happens, your CDL is suspended for your first DUI offense. This is irrespective of whether you were operating a regular car or a commercial vehicle.
This means that regardless of the type of vehicle you were driving, a first DUI offense as a commercial driver will result in your CDL suspension for a year.
DUI Laws for CDL Holders in Arizona
As earlier stated, when a CDL holder in Arizona is convicted of drunk or impaired driving, the Motor Vehicle Division (MVD) suspends their license as a punishment. If this happens to you, to reinstate your license, you must meet the requirements set forth by the MVD.
It does not matter what vehicle you were driving when you are arrested for intoxicated driving in Arizona. As a commercial driver's license holder, as long as you hold the license, your license is suspended even if you drive your personal car. Some of the violations that can have your CDL suspended include:
Driving impaired by either alcohol or drugs
Committing a felony with any vehicle you drive.
Declining a chemical test that determines your BAC level.
Having your license suspended can adversely affect you. For instance, if you were earning your living by being a commercial vehicle driver, you will lose your employment and be forced to seek another way to make a living. The inconvenience of not driving when you want to run your errands quickly is also a consequence.
From this, drivers of commercial vehicles or holders of CDL can suffer significant consequences that include suspension of all their licenses if they operate their cars drunk.
Penalties and other Consequences when Convicted of a DUI with a CDL
A conviction on intoxicated driving in Arizona automatically results in your license suspension for not less than thirty days or more than a year. If you repeat the offense, both your licenses will face a minimum of a year's suspension. Additionally, you will be ordered to pay fines or face jail time, among other punishments. Below, we outline the various penalties in detail, depending on the circumstances of your offense.
Penalties with a BAC Between 0.04% and 0.15%
When you are arrested on DUI charges with a CDL, your first offense of having BAC levels ranging from 0.04% to 0.15% while driving a commercial vehicle is steep. The legal penalties upon a conviction will result in:
A minimum jail sentence of ten days
A minimum amount in cash fine of $1,250
Earlier, it was stated that a DUI is a priorable offense in Arizona. This means a repeat offense is punished more harshly than the first offense. If you repeat the offense with a BAC of between 0.04% and 0.15%, the penalties include:
A minimum of three months in jail
A cash fine of not below $3,000
Revocation of your license for at least a year
Penalties with a BAC of 0.15% or Over
This violation is punished more severely. If you are convicted for the first time, your likely punishments include:
At least thirty days of jail time
A minimum cash fine of $2,500
Repeat offenses with a BAC of 0.15% or over will earn you:
At least four months of jail time
A fine not below $3,250
Revocation of your license for a year
If you refuse to have a chemical test to ascertain your BAC level, you earn an automatic suspension of your license for twelve months. However, your previous convictions are taken into consideration and can increase your license's suspension for a further twelve months, making it two years of CDL suspension.
Citing a Commercial Vehicle Driver with a DUI in Arizona
As seen above, commercial drivers are seriously punished under all Arizona DUI laws. Various situations can result in a commercial driver facing DUI charges in Arizona. These situations include:
Alcohol impairs the Driver
A commercial driver is said to be under the influence of consuming alcoholic beverages, and the alcohol impairs them. You are said to be impaired or under the influence when:
Your physical and mental abilities are impaired.
Such that you are unable to drive cautiously as a sober driver would exercising care under the same circumstances
You have Consumed Alcohol Over the Legal Limit
The legal alcohol limit, as earlier discussed, is critical to your facing DUI charges with a CDL. A commercial driver's license holder is considered to have surpassed the legal limit when:
You are arrested driving a common carrier or commercial vehicle with a 0.04% BAC or over or
You drive a regular car with a 0.08% BAC or more.
This means that when your alcohol content is found to be at or above the legal limits, you are automatically guilty of driving under the influence.
You are Under the Influence of Drugs
Impairment is not only caused by alcohol. In Arizona, it is illegal for anyone to drive under the influence of drugs, even when alcohol is not involved. However, some drivers can also combine drugs and alcohol, which is also illegal.
If you are impaired, and an officer suspects you of drunk driving, they will test your BAC to determine your system's level of alcohol. If you are alleged to be under the influence of drugs or a combination of drugs and alcohol, a blood chemical test is carried out to determine intoxication. The penalties for impaired driving with alcohol or drugs in Arizona are the same, depending on your first offense or a repeat one.
Proving DUI with CDL in Arizona
Before you are arrested for driving under the influence, the arresting officer must have a probable cause for stopping you. For instance, your pattern of driving is a significant indicator of impaired driving. If an officer stops you, and after preliminary observation concludes, you may be intoxicated, they will want to carry out tests to confirm their suspicion. This is when a BAC test comes into effect.
Under Arizona's implied consent law, when you hold a driver's license from the state, it means you automatically consent to have a BAC test to determine the level of intoxication. If you decline the BAC test, the consequence of your refusal is the suspension of your driver's license.
When proving the case against you, the prosecutor doesn't have to show that you were driving at the time of the arrest. However, the evidence the prosecutor presents must show that you were physically in control of the vehicle while intoxicated. The jury or the judge decides if you were in control of the car after hearing arguments from both sides. The court, while determining physical control, will consider the following:
If the vehicle was running
If the ignition was on
The location of the vehicle keys
Whether you were asleep or awake
Whether the headlights of the car on
If an officer stopped you
Whether you pulled over voluntarily
What time of the day were you arrested
The prevailing weather conditions at the time of the arrest
If the air conditioner or heat was on
If the windows were down or up
If there was an explanation for the circumstances that resulted in your arrest
In many instances, if an officer finds you in your vehicle on the road with the keys in the ignition, the officer will conclude you were in control of the car physically. However, if you were taking a nap in the car while parked at a designated area and your keys, not in the ignition, you will not face DUI charges even when you were drunk.
DUI with CDL Causing Injury
Commercial driver's license holders also cause accidents. If you are arrested for a DUI, and your arrest was because you caused an accident that resulted in injuries, it is a felony offense. Arizona is strict in DUI laws when an accident is involved. The prosecutor can charge you with a felony DUI causing injury or aggravated DUI felony. A conviction on these charges results in severe penalties with consequences that can adversely affect your life.
If charged with a DUI offense as a CDL holder in Arizona, you must find a criminal attorney to represent you and challenge the allegations. The penalties if you are convicted of causing injuries due to your DUI are severe and include:
Imprisonment for a minimum of five years to a maximum of eighteen years
Paying a fine of not less than $5,500
Revocation of your driver's license for not less than three years
Mandatory counseling for drugs or alcohol or both
The judge can order you to probation for five years.
You may be called to perform community service.
You earn points in your driving record.
You must install your vehicle with an ignition interlock device.
You earn a criminal record.
As earlier stated, DUI offenses in Arizona are priorable. If you have a prior conviction for a DUI as a CDL holder, the penalties above are enhanced. However, your lawyer can argue your case to earn you a less harsh outcome.
Fighting your DUI with CDL Charges
If faced with these charges, the most important thing is to engage a criminal attorney to represent you. Your lawyer will study the prosecutor's case against you and formulate defenses that will work to create doubt in your case and have the charges dismissed or earn you a more favorable outcome. Some of the defenses include:
You were not Intoxicated at the Time of Arrest
Displaying signs of intoxication or impairment is not a conclusion that you were under the influence of alcohol or drugs. When an officer stops you, they are trained to identify certain signs that should indicate impairment. Unfortunately, these symptoms can also be an indication of another underlying issue. For instance, if you had watery and red eyes, you may have allergies that cause this. If your gait was unstable, it might have been due to an injury or tired. All these signs can be wrongly concluded to mean intoxication when you were not.
With the help of evidence, your attorney can challenge the evidence by the arresting officer and create a doubt in their testimony. As a result, it may be concluded that you were not driving under the influence, and your charges are dropped.
The BAC or Chemical Test Results were Inaccurate
Breath and chemical tests are not always accurate in concluding a driver was intoxicated. There are various reasons that the results may be inaccurate, and your attorney can point them out. Some of these reasons include:
You suffer from acid reflux or Gerd. When you have these conditions, the BAC breathalyzer test readings are compromised, resulting in falsely elevated results.
Your diet or lifestyle can result in elevated BAC results. If you are on a high protein diet, the body produces ketones when breaking the energy proteins. These ketones are released through the breath and have alcoholic properties. As a result, a breath sample will contain these properties that the breathalyzer kit will conclude to be alcohol in your system.
Rising blood alcohol is another reason why BAC results can be inaccurate. The time the breathalyzer test was taken is critical in determining intoxication. Your lawyer can argue that at the time you were arrested, your blood alcohol was low. Unfortunately, as time went by, and you were tested, the blood alcohol was on the rise, resulting in the false BAC results.
BAC results are a significant part of proving the prosecutor's case. Although the prosecution may have other evidence forms, challenging the BAC results can create considerable doubt to drop the charges against you.
Proper Procedures were Not Followed in Your Arrest
Whether you were drunk driving or not, the police must follow the law. If police misconduct is proven in your case, the charges against you can be dropped, or their evidence may not be admissible in court. For instance, the law indicates that an officer should only stop you if they have a probable cause. If an officer had no reason to stop you and still did, it is police misconduct. Another example would be when the officer fails to tell you the repercussions of not submitting to a test.
Your lawyer can use these defenses and other reasons to discredit the officer's evidence against you. This ultimately weakens the prosecutor's case, resulting in a favorable outcome for you.
Find a Criminal Defense DUI Lawyer Near Me
Arizona has some of the harshest laws for Driving Under the Influence with a CDL. When faced with these charges, you can fight against them with an experienced lawyer from Phoenix Criminal Attorney. Our lawyer will challenge the prosecutor's case and ensure you have a favorable outcome. Call our offices at 602-551-8092 to further discuss your charges and build a strong defense.