Central Florida Commercial DUI Laws

Most commercial drivers know that driving for a living is a lot different than driving to work. CDL drivers obtain extra training and drive a lot more than everyone else. In addition to their special  license, there have unique expectations as drivers. Across the county, commercial drivers are held to different standards than other drivers. In Florida, CDL drivers face stiffer penalties and risk  permanently losing their licenses for a DUI offense.

In a Florida DUI case, one of the main differences for a CDL driver is the definition of intoxication. For most drivers in Florida, illegal levels of BAC begin at  .08%. For commercial drivers the level is lowered to .04%. They can also be charged with DUI for being under the influence of drugs.

DUI charge in Orlando, Longwood or Kissimmee, Florida  begins in a typical fashion. Normally, a police officer will observe what he or she considers to be suspicious driving. Examples of this include  swerving, running red lights, or other dangerous behaviors. Sometimes other drivers may alert officials of the behavior and that may prompt a stop.

After a police officer has pulled  a driver over for a DUI, the next step will be to look for actual signs of impairment. Most of the time they will use field sobriety tests to initially determine if a driver is under the influence of drugs or alcohol. If the results of the sobriety test suggests impairment, the driver will be detained.

Once detained, the driver will be asked to take more tests. A blood, breath, or even urine test will be used to verify the presence of drugs or the amount of alcohol in the blood. Refusing to take these test will result in license suspension. For a CDL driver, refusing to take the test will result in the same penalty as failing the test.  You will receive a one year administrative disqualification of commercial driving privileges either way.

Administrative disqualifications are handled by the Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles and are effective immediately. Drivers are able to contest it by requesting an administrative hearing within 10 days. This is completely separate from the court case, which can result in fines, jail time, and a criminal record.

Unlike the immediate action taken by the Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles,  the criminal procedure may take a few months. It starts with an arraignment, which is the defendants opportunity to plead no-contest, guilty, or not guilty. Following the arraignment there is a pre-trial. The pre-trial is the earliest opportunity for a case to be dismissed or plea bargained. It is also the time when a public defender can be assigned. If continued, the case will go to a jury trial,  where all the evidence can be presented and witnesses examined.

Having a private attorney can make a huge difference in a Florida DUI criminal case. An attorney is able to add the additional court procedures of discovery and motion hearings. These two steps can help  get a case dismissed in pre-trial, or prevent certain evidence from appearing in trial.

Some of the unique penalties for DUI with a CDL are:

  • Lowered acceptable BAC of .04% for DUI while operating a commercial vehicle
  • CDL Disqualification of 1 year for a first offense and permanent for a second

If you are a commercial driver and you are stopped for a DUI, it is important to fight it. Not only do you risk a criminal charge, you also risk your livelihood. A DUI lawyer can help you, not only in the courthouse, but also at your administrative hearing. Because these typically happen before court, it is important to seek representation as soon as possible. If you received a DUI charge in Orlando, Longwood or Kissimmee, contact our office to keep you driving.

Author: Amir Ladan
A former assistant state attorney for Orange/Osceola Counties, Amir has handled thousands of cases and dozens of trials, ranging from DUI and traffic offenses to murder, in both adult and juvenile court.

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