In recent years, the federal government has taken steps to ensure uniform requirements for Commercial Driver’s Licenses (CDL) throughout the United States. By threatening to withhold federal highway money from the states, the federal government is forcing the states to pass new laws or amend current laws to toughen penalties for commercial drivers. Colorado has succumb to this pressure and amended Colorado’s laws concerning commercial drivers to be almost identical to the federal regulations.
The federal laws direct Colorado to not allow those with a CDL to hide the conviction with a deferred judgment. If you receive a deferred sentence resulting in no conviction, the charge will be counted as a conviction for purposes of your CDL. If you enter a guilty plea, even to a deferred judgment, the charge will be counted as a conviction for purposes of your CDL and your regular license.
The Department of Revenue will revoke your CDL for a period of one year if you are driving or in actual physical control of a commercial vehicle with a blood or breath alcohol level of .04 or more.
If you refuse to take a chemical test while driving or in actual physical control of a commercial vehicle, your CDL will also be revoked for one year. Your CDL will be revoked if you are operating any motor vehicle under the influence of alcohol or any other intoxicating substances or combination thereof. This means if you are driving your personal vehicle and receive a DUI or DWAI, the state will revoke your CDL for one year.
If you are driving a commercial vehicle that requires a placard for hazardous material and your CDL is suspended for the reasons outlined in the previous two paragraphs, the suspension period is increased to three years. If it is your second conviction for DUI, your CDL will be banned for life (there is a provision that allows for potential reinstatement after 10 years and completion of a drug and alcohol rehabilitation program, however, for most the loss of the CDL for 10 years is the equivalent of a lifetime ban).
The Department of Revenue will suspend your CDL for 60 days if you receive a second conviction within a three year period for a serious traffic offense while operating a commercial vehicle. If it is your third conviction within a three-year period, the suspension will be for 120 days and is consecutive to any other suspensions for serious traffic offenses.
A serious traffic offense includes speeding 15 miles per hour or more over the limit, reckless driving, and erratic or unsafe lane changes, following too close, and not possessing your CDL or proper endorsements. These violations must have occurred in a commercial vehicle.
You are thinking, “No big deal, it’s my first one so I can get a red license.” Not true. Colorado does not allow driving a CDL vehicle for one year on a first alcohol or drug related driving conviction. In fact, if your BAC is at or above .170 the revocation is effectively for thirty-three (33) months due to the interlock requirement. The interlock requirement means that you must have interlock installed in every vehicle that you operate. You cannot install ignition interlock in a commercial vehicle. The interlock requirement will prohibit the driver from driving the commercial vehicle the duration of time the driver is required to have interlock in their vehicles.
If you are convicted of DUI or DWAI and have a CDL, you will not be able to work for one year or more and perhaps your lifetime if your job requires a CDL.
One last point of distinction, even though your CDL is banned for a year or life, the operator’s portion of your license will only be suspended for the same amount of time as a person without a CDL.
As you can see, your livelihood is at stake. A conviction for commercial DUI can have a lifetime effect on your ability to make a living. Most lawyers do not understand the complexities of the requirements for a CDL. It is important to speak with skilled lawyers who understand that your livelihood is at stake.
Here's another kicker: if you have a CDL and your job requires you to cross over the border into Canada, you may not be able to, and this will be another hinderence on your job.
Hope is not lost, however. A skilled DUI attorney can challenge the revocation and criminal case, possibly preventing a conviction and the loss of your license.