DWI Impact on Commercial Drivers in New Jersey
Commercial Driver’s License Holders Are Subject to Stricter Regulations Due to the Potential Dangers Associated With Operating Large Vehicles Under the Influence
According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), more than 10,000 are caused each year by drunk drivers. The harm caused to victims involved in an accident with a commercial vehicle is typically greater because commercial vehicles tend to be large, carry a lot of weight, and have the potential to cause very serious injuries to those involved in an accident. New Jersey is tough on all DWI offenders, and while the criminal penalties for commercial drivers are the same as all other drivers, commercial drivers face additional licensing consequences. Commercial drivers must possess a Commercial Driver’s License (CDL), due to the heightened safety risks associated with operating a commercial vehicle, and will have this license suspended following a DWI conviction in New Jersey.
If you are facing DWI charges in New Jersey as a commercial driver, you must understand how the charge against you differs from a DWI for non-commercial drivers, along with the potential penalties you are facing.
DWI Penalties and Legal Impact on CDL Holders in NJ
At a starting point, the penalties you face for a DWI charge as a commercial driver are the same as any other driver. However, in addition to these penalties, you will separately have your CDL suspended, which can have a tremendously negative impact on your ability to work and earn an income. Furthermore, you can actually lose your CDL for drinking and driving even if you are under the legal limit and are not charged or convicted of DWI.
In New Jersey, first time DWI offenders who have a blood alcohol content level (BAC) of at least 0.08% but no greater than 0.099% face up to 30 days in the county jail, 3 to 15 months of an ignition interlock device (IID) installed on their vehicle, license revocation for up to 3 months or until the IID is installed, and fines of $250 to $400.
However, as a CDL holder, you can have your commercial license revoked if you are driving with a BAC of 0.04% or higher. If an individual’s BAC is between 0.10 to 0.15, then they must have an IID installed for at least 7 months but up to a year and will be ordered to pay fines between $300 to $500. These penalties increase with each subsequent DWI offense. For those convicted of a second DWI, jail time of at least 48 hours but up to 90 days is mandatory. Second time offenders will also be ordered to pay fines between $500 to $1,000 and face license revocation for up to 1 to 2 years. Third time offenders face up to 180 days in jail, license suspension up to 8 years, plus 2 to 4 additional years of IID installation, and fines of $1,000.
How Minor Violations Can Also Lead to License Suspension
It is also important to remember that, as a CDL holder, you can have your license suspended for violations that are more minor than a DWI. It is possible that you might be pulled over for suspicion of DWI or for another reason and be charged with a related offense like speeding or reckless driving. These offenses can also lead to suspension of your CDL, as you are held to a much higher standard than other drivers on the road. Distracted driving, aggressive driving, and violating traffic laws are all driving actions that could lead to revocation of your CDL.
Employment Consequences of CDL Revocation
Of course, the reason you have a CDL is because you are engaged in employment or business activities that require it. If your CDL is revoked, then you may lose your job. Most New Jersey employees are at-will employees, which means that most people can be fired for any lawful reason. Unlawful termination occurs when an individual is terminated for a discriminatory reason or during a time when their job status was protected for some reason. So, while you cannot be lawfully terminated for your race, gender, religious beliefs, or while you are on medical leave protected under federal and New Jersey law, you can certainly be fired for having your CDL revoked. In fact, even if your license is not revoked and you are acquitted of the DWI charges against you, your employer is not legally obligated to maintain your employment.
If and when your CDL is revoked, this can have a greater impact than losing your current job, as you will likely have difficulty finding another similar job without a CDL. Even if you apply for jobs without a CDL requirement or any driving duties, your termination from your previous employment and DWI conviction can restrict you from obtaining other job opportunities as well.
Out-of-State DWI Convictions and the Interstate Driver’s License Compact
If you are a New Jersey resident or CDL holder and you are convicted of DWI out of state, your regular license and CDL will be revoked just as if you were convicted in New Jersey. New Jersey is a member of the Interstate Driver’s License Compact and will notify 49 other states when an individual who is an out-of-state resident is convicted of a DWI in New Jersey. Other member states will do the same when someone is convicted of a DWI in their state, so, in most cases, any DWI offense committed outside of New Jersey will be reported back to New Jersey.
Contact Bronzino Law Firm for Help When Charged with DWI with a CDL in Ocean County NJ
The best possible approach to dealing with a DWI charge is to try to present evidence that calls into question whether the stop by police was lawful or that challenges the accuracy of the field sobriety test and/or breathalyzer test that was administered. In order to present such evidence effectively, you need the assistance of a skilled and knowledgeable New Jersey DWI defense attorney. Not only can our DWI lawyers at Bronzino Law Firm potentially help get the charges against you dismissed, but, in doing so, we can help you protect your CDL and your livelihood. For more information and a review of your case, please get in touch with us today to set up a free consultation. We can be reached anytime to serve your needs in Point Pleasant, Lakewood, Lacey, Red Bank, Toms River, Howell, Freehold, Jackson, Stafford, Belmar, and South Jersey. Contact our Brick or Sea Girt offices at (732) 812-3102 for more information; you can also access our online contact form.