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OWI charges and commercial drivers: What you should know

On Behalf of | Mar 2, 2021 | Criminal Defense |

Michigan motorists suspected of driving while under the influence of alcohol or drugs may face charges of operating a motor vehicle while intoxicated (OWI). That’s never good. The penalties for drugged and drunk driving are pretty fierce.

When that driver holds a commercial vehicle operator’s license, however, the stakes get a lot higher.

Why are CDL holders treated differently than other motorists?

Most jurisdictions hold those with commercial driver’s licenses (CDL) to a higher standard than other motorists. Not only do they have additional training that other motorists don’t have, but they are also trusted with large vehicles that can do a great deal of damage when they’re mishandled. Legislators also hold commercial drivers to a higher standard because they’re responsible for transporting expensive cargo, so it’s considered a matter of public safety. 

As a result, CDL holders will have their driver’s licenses confiscated immediately upon arrest for OWI.

What regulations must CDL holders follow when it comes to drinking and driving?

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) regulates alcohol and drug consumption among those who lease, own or operate commercial vehicles to include anyone who works for any for-hire government or private motor carriers, churches and civic organizations.

Federal officials also set the legal limit for commercial drivers. It stands at 0.04%, half that of non-commercial motorists. The FMCSA also prohibits commercial drivers from operating an employer’s vehicle for four hours after consuming alcohol.

FMCSA regulations also allow fleet companies to perform random drug testing to ascertain whether it’s safe for their employees to operate their vehicles. They also require employees to undergo mandatory alcohol and drug testing if there’s reasonable suspicion that they used such a substance or if they previously violated such policies. Federal regulations equate a commercial driver refusing to submit to a drug screening to pleading guilty to an OWI.  

FMCSA regulations also require commercial drivers to notify their employers of any OWI conviction, whether it happened on the job or not. Federal law prohibits these companies from employing a convicted OWI offender for the duration of their license suspension. 

Are you a CDL holder charged with OWI?

Not being able to drive during your OWI case’s adjudication is frustrating, and the added complication of losing your job as a commercial driver here in Grand Rapids makes things even more challenging. Speak to an experienced defense attorney right away about your case.