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Commercial driver’s license (CDL) holders are held to higher standards than most other road users in Maine.
These types of licenses are considered special driver’s licenses that allow someone to drive commercial motor vehicles like large trailer trucks and buses — or any vehicle over 26,000 pounds.
An OUI is an especially serious offense if you drive a commercial vehicle. You would be right to have concerns about your license and, indeed, your employment and your ability to earn an income should you find yourself on the wrong side of a breathalyzer test with Maine law enforcement.
So, what happens to your commercial license if you get an OUI in Maine? Do you lose it? If so, for how long?
Let’s clear up the main questions we’re asked about this situation by commercial drivers….
To maintain employment that involves driving a commercial motor vehicle, you must have a valid CDL in Maine.
A criminal charge for DUI, which is more correctly called “operating under the influence” (OUI) in Maine, can put this license at risk.
This applies regardless of whether the CDL holder is driving a commercial vehicle at the time of the stop by law enforcement or not. The bottom line is that if the charge leads to an OUI conviction, the CDL holder will experience a negative impact on his/her CDL.
Under the Maine OUI laws, you can be charged with OUI in the following circumstances if you were driving your own vehicle:
It’s important to understand that you do not need to register over the legal limit to be found guilty of OUI in Maine.
Also, for CDL holders, the law varies if you were driving a commercial vehicle at the time of the stop (see the section on rule violations below).
If you are charged with OUI, the court process and Maine Bureau of Motor Vehicles (BMV) process for commercial drivers is similar to that for standard driver’s license holders. However, for commercial drivers who rely on their licenses to earn an income, the consequences can be much harsher.
If convicted, how serious your punishment is will partly depend on your criminal driving history but there is no easy ride if you are convicted. Even for a first offense, your CDL will be suspended for at least a year. A second or subsequent offense can result in a lifetime disqualification from driving a commercial vehicle.
To convict you for OUI in Maine, the prosecution will need to prove the following elements of the charge:
This can constitute driving or preparing to drive. So, if you are in the driver’s seat with the keys in the ignition, you are considered to be operating the motor vehicle.
A blood alcohol level of 0.08 or higher means you are legally “intoxicated” in Maine. To prove this element, a breath or blood test is usually used in Maine, though a urine test may also be requested. The “implied consent” law here means that no driver has the option to refuse a chemical test or the refusal will be used as evidence to convict the driver of the charge and the sentence may be enhanced because of the refusal.
Even if you are under the legal limit, if you are proven to be “under the influence of intoxicants” you can still be convicted of OUI. This may include alcohol, illegal drugs, prescription medications or a combination of these substances. Evidence such as the observations of police officers and field sobriety tests (which test for signs of impairment) can be used to prove this element. Note that you can legally refuse to take a field sobriety test.
The criminal penalties for OUI for a CDL holder are the same as for a standard license holder in Maine.
A first OUI Offense is a Class D misdemeanor in Maine: this carries both mandatory minimum and maximum sentences, including fines, jail time, and court-imposed license suspensions.
The fine will be between $500 and $2,000 plus fees and surcharges. You can be jailed for up to 364 days (though there is no mandatory minimum jail sentence) and your license will be suspended for 150 days.
A commercial license holder will also be subject to the following serious administrative consequences for their license:
The implied consent laws mean that if a CDL holder refuses to submit to an alcohol breath test, his/her license will be suspended immediately for one year for a first refusal (three years if carrying hazardous materials) and lifetime disqualification for a second refusal.
You already know that any driver stopped with 0.08 grams or more of alcohol per 100 milliliters of blood will land an OUI charge in Maine.
For commercial drivers, there is greater jeopardy than for standard license drivers because they are held to higher standards according to federal regulations.
One such regulation is that a CDL holder may not operate a commercial vehicle with a BAC of .04 or higher. This is regarded as a “rule violation” and can lead to a class E misdemeanor charge.
Although this is a lesser violation than an OUI charge, it still triggers an administrative one-year suspension of your commercial driver’s license and so it is not to be taken lightly. Similarly, a subsequent rule violation of this nature will lead to a lifetime disqualification of your CDL, as harsh as that may sound.
Although the laws for commercial driver’s license holders are strict when it comes to alcohol or illicit substances, you always have a defense if you find yourself charged with OUI as a CDL holder.
One of our OUI defense lawyers will listen to your side of the story, launch an investigation, and start building a defense based on one or more of the following common arguments:
If you’re facing an OUI charge in Maine that could affect your commercial driver’s license, challenging your charge in court is very important.
Hiring a quality OUI / DUI defense attorney to help you in court is the best way to fight against your OUI charges. Call The Maine Criminal Defense Group today at (207) 571-8146 or contact us directly online.
If you are facing criminal charges in Maine, the attorneys at The Maine Criminal Defense Group are here to help. Call our office to speak with
one of our team members, who will discuss your case with you and set up a consultation with one of our attorneys
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