Can You Get a CDL with a DUI

Finebloom, Haenel & Higgins

Getting a DUI (Driving Under the Influence) can have serious consequences, especially if you're trying to get or keep a Commercial Driver's License (CDL). The number of deadly drunk-driving crashes rose again in 2021, killing 13,384 people. About 31% of all fatal crashes in 2021 involved drunk drivers.

The risks are even greater for truck drivers. Commercial trucks are much larger and heavier than regular cars, so commercial truck accidents often cause more severe injuries and damage. A DUI charge for a truck driver not only puts lives at risk but also brings serious legal issues for both the driver and the trucking company.

Given these high stakes, many people wonder if it's possible to get a CDL with a DUI on their record. Let's start the conversation. 

Getting a CDL with a DUI

Yes, it is possible to obtain a CDL even if you have a DUI on your driving record. You may still have the chance to get your Commercial Driver’s Permit (CDP) on your first attempt. However, you cannot get a CDL if your current permit is suspended due to a DUI. 

While obtaining a CDL with a DUI is not overly difficult, finding employment afterward can be more challenging. Being honest about your DUI history during driving school is necessary, as it will come up when your driving record is reviewed.

Requirements Of Obtaining A CDL

To earn a CDL, drivers must pass a series of tests that assess their skills and knowledge. Once obtained, a CDL is responsible for driving safely, and failure to adhere to traffic laws can result in its revocation. 

The specific requirements for obtaining a CDL can vary by state but generally include the following:

  1. Before applying for a CDL, drivers must hold a valid, non-commercial driver’s license.

  1. Drivers must be at least 18 to obtain a CDL for intrastate driving and 21 or older to drive interstate or transport hazardous materials.

  1. Applicants need one to two years of driving experience and must maintain a clean driving record. This means no suspensions for points accumulation, traffic violations, DUIs/DWIs, failure to appear in court, or failure to pay child support. Suspended drivers must complete a defensive driving course and pay reinstatement fees.

  1. Drivers must pass background checks to ensure they have no disqualifying criminal history.

  1. Applicants must provide proof of citizenship, such as a social security card or birth certificate.

  1. Drivers must demonstrate the ability to understand and communicate in English.

  1. A valid Medical Examiner’s Certificate confirms the driver has good vision and overall health.

Challenges of Getting a CDL with a DUI

Getting a CDL with a DUI conviction can be challenging. Many trucking companies have strict policies against hiring drivers with a DUI history, especially if the conviction is recent. 

Depending on state regulations, a DUI can lead to job application rejections, higher insurance premiums, and even license suspensions. Knowing more about these challenges is essential for anyone with a DUI looking to pursue a career in commercial driving.

Employment Difficulties

  • Many trucking companies are reluctant to hire drivers with a DUI conviction, especially if it is recent. 

  • Companies like Walmart, which pay well, often require a clean driving record and have strict policies regarding DUI histories.

  • A DUI can significantly reduce your chances of landing a good job in the trucking industry.

Impact on Job Applications

  • If you have had a DUI in the past three years, many driving companies may not contact you for employment.

  • Some companies may hire you after a year since your DUI conviction, but this varies widely.

  • Discussing the company’s policies with their HR department or relevant managers is key.

State Regulations and License Suspension

  • In some states, a DUI can lead to the suspension of your CDL.

  • You can apply for a CDL after your suspension is lifted, but the process varies by state.

Insurance Issues

  • A DUI conviction can lead to higher insurance premiums.

  • You may need to obtain SR-22 insurance, a certificate of financial responsibility required by most state DMVs for high-risk drivers.

  • The SR-22 is part of reinstating your license after a suspension.

Steps To Take If Your CDL Gets Denied Due To A DUI

Facing a denial of your CDL application due to a DUI can be daunting, but there are clear steps you can take to navigate this situation effectively. 

Fully understanding the reasons for the denial and taking proactive measures are best in determining your future actions.

E Restriction

An E restriction prohibits CDL truck drivers from operating vehicles with manual transmissions. An E restriction will be formally issued if the skills test uses automatic transmission.

L Restriction

An L restriction prevents drivers from operating vehicles with a complete air brake system. If the skills test does not include testing with a complete brake system or if brake system components need to be identified appropriately, an L restriction will be formally issued.

M Restriction

An M restriction indicates that a driver can only operate a Class B or C passenger vehicle or a school bus. If a driver holds a Class A CDL but obtains their P endorsement or school bus (S) endorsement in a Class B vehicle, an M restriction will be formally issued.

N Restriction

An N restriction specifies that a driver can only operate a Class C passenger vehicle or school bus. If a driver holds a Class B CDL but obtains their P or S endorsement in a Class C vehicle, an N restriction will be formally issued.

O Restriction

An O restriction prohibits drivers from operating a Class A vehicle with a fifth-wheel connection. An O restriction will be formally issued if a driver takes the skills test in a Class A vehicle equipped with a non-fifth wheel connection or pintle hook.

How Can A Lawyer Assist In the CDL Process?

Here are several ways in which a skilled lawyer specializing in DUI and traffic law can provide crucial assistance:

Legal Expertise and Guidance

A knowledgeable lawyer can interpret your state's laws and regulations surrounding CDLs and DUIs. They will thoroughly assess your case, considering the specifics of your DUI charge, prior convictions, and applicable legal precedents. 

With this understanding, they can guide the best strategies to navigate the CDL process effectively.

Representation and Advocacy

Your lawyer will serve as your advocate throughout administrative hearings or court proceedings related to your CDL status. They will prepare a compelling case on your behalf, presenting evidence and arguments to support your right to obtain or retain your CDL. 

Their advocacy skills are important in persuading decision-makers to consider factors favorable to your situation.

Negotiation with Authorities

Experienced DUI lawyers have established relationships with DMV officials and prosecutors. They can negotiate on your behalf to seek favorable outcomes, such as reduced penalties or alternative sentencing options. 

This may include negotiating for a restricted CDL that allows you to continue driving under certain conditions. You can also explore other opportunities for early reinstatement of your CDL.

Appeals and Legal Defense

If your CDL application is denied or your license is suspended, your lawyer will handle the appeals process with skill and determination. They will prepare and present a strong legal defense. This will include challenging erroneous decisions or unfair treatment that may affect your CDL status. 

For more information on how our team can assist, contact us today to schedule your free consultation.