People who drive trucks or buses professionally are subject to some laws that do not apply to other drivers. Both federal and Texas laws hold commercial drivers to a higher standard regarding alcohol consumption, with lower thresholds of legal impairment than for other drivers.
The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA), a division of the U.S. Department of Transportation (USDOT) has established that the operation of a commercial vehicle by a driver with a blood-alcohol concentration (BAC) of 0.04 or more is illegal (49 Code of Federal Regulations, Section 382.201). Section 522.081 of the Texas Statutes mirrors the federal threshold of 0.04, which is half the legal maximum threshold for non-commercial drivers (0.08).
A person with a commercial driver’s license (CDL) who has a BAC of 0.04 or more in Texas while driving a commercial vehicle is legally considered a drunk driver and may be arrested for DWI (driving while intoxicated), even when the BAC level is below 0.08. In addition, a commercial driver who exceeds the 0.08 threshold when driving a personal vehicle will lose his or her CDL for a year, which will result in job loss as a professional driver.
Other penalties for “Commercial DWI” include jail, heavy fines, and probation, as well as DWI “surcharges.”
Commercial DWI Defense Lawyer in Denton, Frisco, Lewisville, Flower Mound, TX
Commercial drivers have much more at stake than other drivers who face a DWI charge. If you are charged with Commercial DWI anywhere in Denton County, Texas, you should contact a local DWI defense attorney as soon as possible.
The DWI attorneys at the Law Offices of Richard C. McConathy realize that a commercial DWI conviction could lead straight to the unemployment office. We are experienced in defending commercial drivers charged with DWI. Our dedicated attorneys will be able to explain your criminal charges and then work hard to defend those charges. We can use our knowledge of criminal procedure and resources to help you fight the case. In addition, we will fight to retain your commercial and personal driving privileges.
Law Offices of Richard C. McConathy represents DUI clients throughout Denton County, including the cities of Denton, Lewisville, The Colony, Little Elm, Flower Mound, and many nearby communities throughout North Dallas metropolitan area. Contact us today at (940) 222-8004 so we can review your case and explain your options during a free, confidential consultation with one of our skilled DWI attorneys.
Commercial DWI under Texas Law
A commercial motor vehicle driver with an alcohol concentration of 0.04 or higher is considered to be driving while intoxicated under the Texas Statutes, Transportation Code, Title 7, Subtitle B, Subchapter H, Section 522.081.
The law states that any commercial vehicle driver operating a commercial motor vehicle in Texas with an alcohol concentration (BAC) of 0.04 or higher is subject to the same DWI punishments imposed on non-commercial drivers with a BAC of 0.08 or higher.
Definitions of Terms Related to Commercial DWI in Texas
Some of the terms in the commercial DWI law are defined in the Texas statutes, including a commercial motor vehicle, intoxicated, and alcohol concentration.
“Commercial motor vehicle” is defined under federal 49 C.F.R. § 382.107 and Texas Statutes, Transportation Code § 522.003(5) as a motor vehicle or combination of motor vehicles used to transport passengers or property that:
- Has a gross combination weight or a gross combination weight rating of 26,001 or more pounds, including a towed unit with a gross vehicle weight or a gross vehicle weight rating of more than 10,000 pounds; or
- Has a gross vehicle weight or a gross vehicle weight rating of 26,001 or more pounds; or
- Is designed to transport 16 or more passengers, including the driver; or
- Is transporting hazardous materials.
Under the Texas Penal Code § 49.01(2), “intoxicated” means:
- Not having the normal use of mental or physical faculties by reason of the introduction of alcohol, a controlled substance, a drug, a dangerous drug, a combination of two or more of those substances, or any other substance into the body; or
- Having an alcohol concentration of 0.08 or more (0.04 for commercial drivers under Texas § 522.081).
Under Texas P.C. § 49.01(1), “alcohol concentration” (also known as blood alcohol concentration or BAC) means the number of grams of alcohol per:
- 210 liters of breath
- 100 milliliters of blood, or
- 67 milliliters of urine.”
Criminal Penalties for Commercial DWI in Texas
A person charged with a commercial DWI in Texas will be subject to the same DWI penalties that a non-commercial driver would face, but a commercial DWI conviction may result in the loss of his or her CDL, which is detailed in the next section.
Driving while intoxicated is considered a Class B misdemeanor in Texas, and penalties include a sentence of at least three days and up to 180 days in jail and/or fines of up to $2,000.
If a driver is found to have a BAC of 0.15 or higher, the charge is elevated to a Class A misdemeanor. If convicted, a Class A misdemeanor is punishable by up to one year in jail and/or fines of up to $4,000.
Civil Penalties for Commercial DWI in Texas
People convicted of Commercial DWI in Texas face numerous penalties — both criminal and civil — although the potential civil consequences may be harsher because they include a CDL suspension, which may result in the loss of a job as a commercial driver. A CDL may be suspended for a period of one year to life, depending on the severity of the violation.
One Year CDL Suspension for First Commercial DWI
Under Texas law, a person who holds a commercial driver’s license is disqualified from driving a commercial motor vehicle for one year upon a first conviction:
- For driving a motor vehicle under the influence of alcohol or a controlled substance;
- For refusing to submit to a test to determine the person’s alcohol concentration or the presence in the person’s body of a controlled substance or drug while operating a motor vehicle in a public place; or
- If an analysis of the person’s blood, breath, or urine determines that the person:
- Had an alcohol concentration of 0.04 or more, or that a controlled substance or drug was present in the person’s body while operating a commercial motor vehicle in a public place; or
- Had an alcohol concentration of 0.08 or more while operating a motor vehicle, other than a commercial motor vehicle, in a public place
Three Year CDL Suspension for DWI with Hazardous Material
A person who holds a commercial driver’s license is disqualified from operating a commercial motor vehicle for three years if:
- Convicted of driving a motor vehicle under the influence of alcohol in a vehicle transporting a hazardous material required to be placarded or if the driver refuses to submit to a test to determine the driver’s alcohol concentration or the presence in the person’s body of a controlled substance or drug, or;
- An analysis of the person’s blood, breath, or urine determines that while transporting a hazardous material required to be placarded that the person:
- While operating a commercial motor vehicle in a public place had an alcohol concentration of 0.04 or more, or a controlled substance or drug present in the person’s body; or
- While operating a motor vehicle, other than a commercial motor vehicle, in a public place had an alcohol concentration of 0.08 or more.
Lifetime CDL Suspension Multiple Convictions and Other Crimes
A person who holds a commercial driver’s license is disqualified from operating a commercial motor vehicle for life if:
- The person is convicted two or more times of certain offenses specified in the statutes or a combination of those offenses, arising from two or more separate incidents; or
- The person uses a motor vehicle in the commission of a felony involving:
- The manufacture, distribution, or dispensing of a controlled substance; or
- Possession with intent to manufacture, distribute, or dispense a controlled substance; or
- The person uses a motor vehicle in the commission of an offense that involves the transportation, concealment, or harboring of an alien
(See Texas Statutes, Title 7, Chapter 522.081.)
Texas law provides for an appeals process for CDL suspensions, but a lifetime CDL suspension may not be appealed for 10 years (Texas Statutes, Title 7, Chapter 522.082).
The Texas licensing bureau will determine a person’s eligibility for CDL restoration after 10 years. But if a reinstated driver is ever convicted of a similar offense, he or she will permanently lose his or her CDL with no possibility of reinstatement.
Texas DWI Surcharges
In addition to the criminal penalties that may be imposed after a Commercial DWI conviction, Texas also assesses a mandatory annual DWI surcharge fee to be paid to the Texas Department of Public Safety (DPS). This administrative fee must be paid for a period of three years as a condition of maintaining a driver’s license. Failure to pay the surcharges or enter into a payment agreement will result in the automatic suspension of a CDL until all payments are made.
Texas DWI surcharges, to be paid to the Texas Department of Public Safety, are:
- DWI First Offense — $1,000 annual surcharge ($3,000 total)
- DWI Second or Subsequent Offense — $1,500 annual surcharge ($4,500 total)
- DWI with BAC 0.16 or more (first offense) — $2,000 annual surcharge ($6,000 total)
Resources for Commercial DWI in Denton County, Texas
Texas Statutes, Penal Code, Title 10, Chapter 49.04 — Read the Texas state laws that define driving while intoxicated as well as the potential penalties for conviction.
Texas Statutes, Transportation Code, Title 7, Chapter 522.081 — Read the Texas state laws related to disqualification from driving a commercial motor vehicle, including the civil penalties that may result from a conviction for Commercial DWI.
Texas DPS – Commercial Vehicle Enforcement Service – Read about the special program that the Texas Department of Public Safety has developed for commercial vehicle safety. The objective of the Commercial Vehicle Enforcement Service is to reduce accidents, protect state highways and the rights of people driving on public roads and highways.
Commercial Motor Vehicle Drivers Handbook – The Texas DPS Commercial Motor Vehicle Drivers Handbook details subjects such as licensing tests, driving safely, transporting passengers, registration and regulations.
Texas Department of Motor Vehicles – The Texas Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) is responsible for registering and titling vehicles in the state, regulating motor carrier operating authority, and helping law enforcement agencies reduce auto theft and increase public driving awareness. The address is:
Texas Dept. of Motor Vehicles
1925 E. Beltline Rd., Suite 100
Carrollton, Texas 75006
Phone: (972) 417-0884
Find A Denton County Defense Attorney for Commercial DWI Charges | Law Office Of Richard C. McConathy
If you are currently charged with Commercial DWI in Denton County, Texas or anywhere in the North Dallas metropolitan area, you should act now in order to retain your driving privileges and your livelihood.
The experienced DWI attorneys at the Law Offices of Richard C. McConathy are committed to their clients and use their legal knowledge and skills to fight for the best possible outcome in every case. We know the DWI process and we proudly represent DWI defendants throughout Denton County, including Lewisville, Denton, The Colony, Flower Mound, Little Elm, Grapevine, and Westlake, as well as surrounding communities.
Contact the Law Offices of Richard C. McConathy today by calling (940) 222-8004 to schedule a free consultation with one of our DWI lawyers.