Driving Under the Influence Affects Your Commercial License

Friday, October 14th, 2016

In the State of Washington, commercial drivers face high standards and harsh civil and criminal penalties for driving under the influence (DUI).  Not only will you lose your driver’s license, pay a fine, and be imprisoned, but you may also be required to take prevention classes or alcohol abuse classes.  You may also be required to install an ignition interlock device attached to all of your personal vehicles, which prevents you from driving unless you blow into the car breathalyzer and show that your blood-alcohol content (BAC) level is below 0.025.

Moreover, commercial drivers in Washington must be concerned with two statutes that define driving under the influence (DUI):

  • A person is disqualified from driving a commercial vehicle for at least one year if they received a DUI while driving a commercial vehicle.
  • A person is disqualified from driving a commercial vehicle for at least one year if they are convicted of a DUI while driving a private vehicle.

See RCW 46.25.090(1).

Driving Under the Influence in Your Private Vehicle Affects Your Commercial License

What constitutes a DUI differs depending on your age and whether you were driving a commercial vehicle or a private vehicle:

  • If you are driving a private vehicle and are 21 years of age or older, then you could be charged with DUI if your BAC level is 0.08 or higher.
  • If you are driving a private vehicle and are under 21 years of age, then you could be charged with DUI if your BAC level is 0.02 or higher.
  • If you have a commercial license and are under the age of 21, you could face the same penalties as any other driver under the age of 21 and lose your commercial license for at least a year.
  • If you are a commercial driver over the age of 21, you could be charged with DUI if your BAC level is 0.04 or higher.

See RCW 46.25.090 (b).  Therefore, the consequences for a young driver drinking one beer can be devastating. If you are under the age of 21, then one beer can cost you your commercial license for a year. For example, according to a blood-alcohol calculator prepared by the Cleveland Clinic, a person who weighs 155 pounds and drinks one beer with an alcohol content of 5% over a thirty-minute time frame will have a BAC in excess of 0.02.

Other Intoxicants Leading to a Driving Under the Influence

Intoxicants other than alcohol can lead to a DUI.  The statute specifically cites marijuana as an intoxicant. Again, a distinction is made between commercial drivers who are 21 years old and those under 21.

  • If you are over 21 years of age, a THC concentration of 5.00 nanograms per milliliter of whole blood constitutes a per se offense of a DUI.
  • If you are under the age of 21, any measurable amount of THC is an offense and will lead to disqualification of driving a commercial vehicle for at least one year.
  • If you are driving a commercial vehicle, any measurable amount of THC will also lead to the loss of commercial license for one year.

Legal drugs, such as over-the-counter or prescription medications, even if taken in accord with the instructions, can also result in a DUI.  Pursuant to RCW 46.61.502(2), it is not a defense if a person is impaired due to a drug that he or she is legally entitled to have and use.   There are numerous legal drugs that have side effects, such as drowsiness, that could impair your ability to drive. The National Safety Commission has created a partial list of prescription and over-the-counter medications that impair driving.

Indirect Consequences of Driving Under the Influence

A DUI charge can have lasting and far reaching consequences.  Not only will you lose your commercial license, but you may also lose your job and employment prospects.  Diligent employers usually perform background check on their potential employees.  This includes a driving history if the duties of the employment position include operating a vehicle.  This is necessary to minimize the employer’s exposure to liability should that potential employee be involved in an accident and was found to have consumed any intoxicants or alcohol.  Exposure to liability is greater if the employer knew or should have known of the employee’s history of DUI.

If you are charged with DUI, contact a driving under the influence defense attorney with The Law Office of Greene & Lloyd, PLLC at (253) 770-0808.


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