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Commercial Driver DUI

Semi-trailer rig heads west into the Sie

California Vehicle Code 23152(d) makes it a crime for a commercial driver to operate a vehicle with a blood alcohol concentration of .04% or higher. The .04% is a hard line rule, meaning that it doesn’t matter if you were intoxicated or not.  If the prosecutor can show that your BAC at the time of driving was .04% or higher, the crime is satisfied.

Getting a regular DUI is bad. Getting a DUI while driving a vehicle totaling 70,000 pounds, can be a disaster without a skilled defense attorney by your side to fight.

In this section, we will examine what is a commercial DUI, what penalties are associated with a commercial DUI, and what (and probably most important to you) is going to happen to your commercial driver’s license.

What is a commercial vehicle?

In order to prove a commercial DUI, the prosecutor will have to show that you were operating a commercial vehicle.  A commercial vehicle is defined as:

 “any vehicle or combination of vehicles that requires a class A or class B license, or a class C license with an endorsement…”

The following is a list of vehicles that fall into these categories:

Under the Influence

The prosecution will also have to prove that you were under the influence at the time you were driving.  This can be shown through several ways.     

The prosecution may try to show that you were under the influence the same way that they would show under the influence for a standard DUI, per VC 23152(a) To do so, the prosecution will have to show that you suffered from mental or physical impairment and that you were unable to drive with the caution of a sober person using ordinary care and under similar circumstances. 


For a more detailed analysis, please visit our section on the “A” count, VC 23152(a).

Commercial .04% Limit

If you’ve been charged with a commercial DUI, it is likely that this will be the route that the prosecutor tries to prove.  In order to satisfy this element, they will need to show that at the time of driving, you were over a .04% BAC. 

To do this, the prosecutor is going to rely on two main witnesses. The officer at the scene, and the criminalist who does the analysis of the breath or blood tests.

The officer is will testify about the observation of any field sobriety tests you performed as well as if you took a preliminary alcohol screening device.  Although they are not as reliable, juries find PAS devices very persuading because they are taken right on scene, usually within 20 minutes of the officer arriving or having conducted a stop.

The other way is through the criminalist.  The prosecutor will elicit testimony from the criminalist regarding the results of your breath or blood test. They will then use a method called retrograde extrapolation to determine what your blood alcohol would have been at the time you were driving.

Commercial DUI Without Operating Commercial Vehicle

One of the unique things about a commercial DUI is that you don’t have to be driving a commercial vehicle to suffer the penalties of a commercial DUI.

If you are convicted of a standard DUI, such as a violation of 23152(a) or 23152(b), you may still suffer the penalties of a commercial DUI. These means that even if you are not at work, and are driving your own personal vehicle, you will face penalties under the commercial DUI statute. 


If you are convicted of a commercial DUI you can expect the court to order a variety of terms that will usually include the following

  • 2 days to 6 months in county jail

  • Fines between $390 to $1,000. However, the court will tack on penalty assessments which will greatly raise these fees to close to $1,500.

  • A DUI school, between 3 months to 9 months long.

  • Suspension of your commercial driver’s license for 1 year. Your license will be suspended for up to 3 years if you were transporting hazardous materials.


What if you are convicted of a second DUI? If you are convicted of a second DUI, even if it is a non-commercial DUI, such as 23152(a), you will lose your commercial driver’s license for life.

Restricted License

If you are convicted of a commercial DUI, you cannot get a restricted license to operate during the period of suspension. You may be able to apply for a restricted license for your personal vehicle that will allow you to drive to and from work or school but that is about it.

You may be eligible to install an ignition interlock device and be allowed to drive anywhere during your period of suspension in your personal vehicle.

A Commercial DUI Is Not Helpless

Unlike other DUIs, if you’ve been arrested or charged with a commercial DUI, or you have a commercial driver’s license, there is a great amount at stake.  You may be feeling as if your world is crashing down. You may be wondering if you have a job waiting for you? Are you going to lose your license? 

These are all real and frightening thoughts that we’ve heard over the years. But we are here to help. A commercial DUI can be fought or pled down to a lesser charge.

For a comprehensive guide to DUI defense, please head over to our DUI Defense section.

In addition to fighting a DUI, a commercial driver may be able to exercise one of the many plea bargain options available to help keep their license. These can include a plea to a “wet reckless” or a special kind of plea known as a “Hellmondollar”.  Getting a prosecutor to be open to one of these types of pleas can be difficult and you need an experienced defense attorney to approach these solutions on your behalf.

The fact is most people charged with a DUI made a really stupid mistake.  Don’t let that mistake turn into another one. Contact the Law Office of Kevin L. Ballard today.

Dedicated DUI Attorney

Kevin Ballard is a dedicated DUI attorney based in Fairfield who understands how to effectively defend those charged with DUIs. Kevin is one of the few attorneys who is both a former prosecutor and trained as a police officer. As such, Kevin knows first hand how DUIs are handled from the initial traffic stop through prosecution and appeal. Let the Law Office of Kevin L. Ballard help you today defend your rights and protect your liberty.

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