Can You Get a CDL With a DUI? – What You Need to Know

| Last Updated: November 8, 2021

Driving Under the Influence (DUI) of a drug or alcohol is a punishable criminal offense across the US. The offense endangers not only lives but also the safety of property, hence attracting severe consequences. 

One of the many dire consequences of a DUI is the suspension or revocation of your Commercial Driver’s License (CDL).

As first-time or repeat DUI offenders, many drivers wonder if they can get back their CDL, which is possible in most states once you meet certain requirements by your state or DUI processing court. 

This article explores common CDL DUI laws and how you can get your CDL back. 

Photo credit: spiritshunters.com

CDL DUI Laws Explained

You have to ensure you are fully aware and observant of the following CDL DUI laws and regulations. DUI laws may vary by state, so it’s crucial to check with your state for any specific laws. 

Blood Alcohol Content for CDL Drivers in a Commercial Vehicle

Federal laws across the US require that CDL drivers should not have a blood alcohol content (BAC) not exceeding 0.04%. 

If a police officer pulls you over and discovers that your BAC when driving a CMV is 0.04% or higher, you will receive DUI charges against you, and you risk losing your CDL in a suspension or revocation.

You shouldn’t drive a commercial motor vehicle with a breath alcohol concentration of 0.04% or more. 

Some states may require you to have a zero percent BAC when operating a commercial vehicle.

Blood Alcohol Content for CDL Drivers in a Personal Car

As a CDL driver operating a personal car, your BAC limit is the same as that of a regular driver at 0.08%. In this case, you will face regular DUI charges. 

However, your CDL may still be suspended or revoked in some states, like Arizona, even if you had an alcohol content of 0.08 in a personal car. 

Refusal to Take BAC Test

Getting a CDL means consenting to submitting a chemical test or agreeing to a blood alcohol content test any time a police officer pulls you over or whenever required in any other instances. 

The police or your employer may conduct random alcohol or drugs tests. 

Photo credit: gifer.com

As a CDL driver, you must consent to a BAC test. Drivers who refuse to take the test will receive a DUI offense. 

Contesting CDL DUI Charges

You are allowed to challenge DUI charges within ten days after the arrest and receive an Order of Suspension/Revocation. 

You have the right to hire an attorney to help you contest the charges. 

CDL DUI Penalties 

Any CDL driver convicted of a DUI will have to face some consequences. The following penalties may vary by state but are usually common for most states.

  • At least one day in jail for a first-time DUI offense. Some states will jail you for at least 6 or 9 months as a first-time CDL DUI offender.
  • CDL license suspension for 60 days to life
  • Lifetime CDL license revocation for a second DUI offense
  • At least three years of CDL license suspension if you were charged with a DUI when operating a placarded hazardous materials (HazMat) vehicle.
  • Community service sentence 
  • Mandatory alcohol and drug programs
  • Higher vehicle insurance premiums
  • CDL probation
  • Monetary penalties ranging $500 to $2,000 or more for first-time DUI offenses
  • Waiting for disqualification duration to elapse before getting your CDL back

Notifying Your Employer of a CDL DUI Charge

Every CDL holder is required by federal laws to notify their employer of a DUI charge and conviction. You should inform your employer within 30 days of a DUI conviction.

The notification requirement is necessary whether you were charged with a DUI in a commercial vehicle or a personal car. 

If your CDL license is suspended or revoked, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) requires you to notify your employer before the close of business the next day after you receive the notice. 

You are allowed to consult your CDL DUI lawyer to advise you on how much information to reveal to your employer about the DUI charge or conviction. 

Note that the notification may or may not be required in some cases, depending on the state and your employee handbook.

What is the Difference Between a License Suspension and Revocation?

Although both license suspension and revocation are devastating to your commercial or non-commercial driving career, a suspension is less disrupting and has less severe effects. 

A license suspension may last 60 days (like in California, for example) but lasts at least one year in most states. Once one year lapses, your CDL will be automatically reinstated.

A license suspension is issued to first-time DUI defendants. 

With a revocation, the duration the license is rendered invalid or useless is longer. It’s usually labeled as a lifetime, but in essence, it means that you can reapply after ten years. 

Unlike the case with a suspension, after the revocation period, you’ll be required to repeat the CDL acquirement process afresh to obtain a new CDL. 

Can You Get a CDL With a DUI?

You can get a CDL with a DUI whether or not you have a CDL at the time of the DUI. 

Once convicted of a DUI in a commercial vehicle or personal car, your driver’s license will be suspended for one or three years or revoked permanently, depending on your state. 

To get your CDL back, you’ll have to fulfill some mandatory requirements by the DMV and convicting court. Some of these requirements are discussed later in this article. 

In most states where you had a CDL that later got revoked for a lifetime, you’ll get the license back after ten years by applying afresh for it. 

After a suspension spanning one or three years, you’ll get your CDL reinstated automatically. However, you still have to meet some requirements for the CDL reinstatement, such as paying penalty fees.

If you never had a CDL and were convicted of a regular DUI, you can still get a CDL in most states, provided your standard license is not suspended or revoked because of any other offenses. 

One important thing to note about getting a CDL with a DUI is that a DUI record is permanent and will always reflect in your driver information. 

Such permanence limits your employability because some employers require you to have zero DUI at the time of hiring. Some specify that you should have no DUI for the past three, five, or ten years. 

Serial DUI offenders may never get a CDL. It’s deduced that you will most likely repeat your habit of driving under the influence of alcohol or other drugs, thus endangering lives on the road. 

A lifetime CDL DUI disqualification for a second DUI lasts ten years in most states, but FMCSA regulations require that your CDL be revoked forever by the fourth DUI. 

You may come across truck driving schools assuring you that you will get a CDL after a third or fourth DUI. It’s crucial to consult a knowledgeable CDL DUI lawyer in such a case to confirm the school’s claim. 

Can You Go to Trucking School If You Have a DUI?

You can go to a trucking school with a DUI if you got charged as a regular driver with no prior CDL license in operation. 

If you are coming out of lifetime disqualification and reapplying for a CDL, you’ll be required to go to trucking school to refresh your commercial driving skills. 

How To Get Your CDL Back After a DUI

After a DUI, your CDL will be suspended, and you must win the DMV hearing or wait for the suspension duration to lapse before you can get your commercial driver’s license back. 

Depending on the state, you must fulfill some or all of the steps below:

  • Win  the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) hearing, which you must request within ten days from the day of the arrest or receipt of Order of Revocation or Suspension
  • Hire a qualified CDL DUI attorney to represent you in the DMV hearing, court proceedings, and employer notification of the DUI charge or conviction if required
  • Wait for the whole suspension period to end 
  • If you qualify, apply for a restricted CDL that allows you to drive only non-commercial vehicles for up to six months as a first-time DUI offender. 

You can apply for a restricted CDL within 30 days of receiving the Order of Suspension. You must meet some requirements for your restricted CDL Application to work.

The requirements include having agreed to the BAC test, being at least 21 years old at the time of the DUI arrest, and having no other CDL violation ten years prior. Your CDL must also not be suspended for any other offense. 

  • Meet any punishments issued by the court, such as mandatory substance abuse classes and paying penalties or fines
  • Retaking CDL certification tests
  • Paying CDL reinstatement/reissue fees. You’ll pay $55 as a CDL reissue fee in California. 

Conclusion

A DUI adversely affects your driver’s license, making it necessary for you to avoid driving a commercial or non-commercial vehicle under the influence of alcohol or other drugs and substances. 

As a first-time DUI defendant, you may be able to get back your CDL in 60 days in some states to up to between one and three years in other states. 

A double DUI will steal ten years off of your trucking career and reduce your employability levels. You had better do your best to avoid it. 

People Also Ask

You may have several burning questions about getting your CDL with a DUI that we may not have answered in the article this far. Check out this last section to get answers to any lingering questions. 

Does a DUI Disqualify You From a CDL?

A DUI will temporarily disqualify you from a CDL for 60 days or permanently to life. The disqualification period is at least one year for a first-time DUI conviction or charge in most states. 

A for-life disqualification usually means that you can only reapply for a CDL after ten years have elapsed. 

Photo credit: feldmanroyle.com

Can I Get My CDL With 2 DUI?

You can still get your CDL with 2 DUIs if it’s been long enough. Two DUIs lead to a lifetime disqualification of ten years, which means you can apply for a fresh CDL once that time period has elapsed.

Can You Get a CDL in California With a DUI?

You can get your CDL in California even with a DUI provided you either win the DMV hearing, qualify for a restricted CDL, pay fees for the reissue, or meet any court-ordered measures such as substance abuse classes. 

How Long is “Lifetime” Disqualification for a CDL?

A “lifetime” CDL disqualification lasts for ten years, after which you can reapply for a CDL in an entirely new process. 

Other CDL Guides

Here are some other informational guides for your convenience: 



After spending years on the road, I had a lot of time to think about the hardships that came with the trucking industry. I realized there was an opportunity to lend a hand a create a resource for truckers by truckers. With the help of my tech-savvy son, I built Trucker Geek as a way to show people that becoming a driver doesn’t need to be a stressful headache.