Defending drivers with a CDL (commercial driver’s license) who are charged with drunk driving is tricky. Each step of the process involves a risk that the CDL will either be disqualified pursuant to state and federal law, or suspended pursuant to regulations of the Maryland Motor Vehicle Administration (MVA). Under Code of Maryland Regulations (COMAR) 11.11.12.07 the MVA may not issue a CDL if the driver’s license is suspended. Unfortunately, the MVA interprets a case called Embrey v. MVA to hold that any kind of restricted license is the equivalent of a suspension. Under this interpretation, a driver with a work restriction or an ignition interlock restriction may not have a CDL.
The first hurdle through which the CDL driver must pass is the initial MVA hearing for a breath or blood test failure or refusal. If the driver took a test with a result of .08 or higher but less than .15, an effort must be made to persuade the Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) to either take no action or to issue a reprimand, as opposed to a 45 day work permit. If a work permit is issued it will be without the CDL. If the driver failed with a result of .15 or more, or refused a test, an effort must be made for no action. In either event, the ALJ would only have discretion to impose an ignition interlock restriction for one year. Again, this would be without CDL. Additionally, a refusal carries a separate one year disqualification of the CDL.
The next hurdle is the court case. If the defendant is found guilty of driving while under the influence of alcohol, or driving while impaired by drugs, or drugs and alcohol, or by controlled dangerous substances, the MVA will impose a one year disqualification of the CDL on a first offense. Subsequent disqualifications are for life. Probation before judgment (PBJ) does not avoid the disqualification. If the case cannot be won, then it is critical that defense counsel try to obtain a guilty finding on the lesser offense of driving while impaired by alcohol. This is the only crime that does not lead to a disqualification of the CDL.
That brings us to the final hurdle, and that is where the driver, having been convicted of driving while impaired, faces a suspension as a result of a conviction and as a result of receiving points. Here, as in the initial MVA hearing, counsel must request a reprimand since any other sanction would result in the loss of the CDL.
Finally, it is important to be aware that with CDL suspensions of one year or more, or disqualifications, the MVA will not simply reissue the CDL at the end of the suspension or disqualification period. Rather the driver will be required to reapply for the CDL. In the event of a shorter CDL suspension, drivers with special endorsements on the CDL, such as HAZMAT, may also be required to reapply and be approved before obtaining a new CDL.
If you are facing serious traffic charges in Maryland and you have a CDL call Leonard R. Stamm or Johanna Leshner of Goldstein & Stamm, P.A. at 301-345-0122 for a free consultation.