Dealing With DUI Violations And The CDL License Holder
Note: Many DUI practitioners will represent Alabama licensees holding a ‘Commercial Driver License’ or a CDL. CDLs are issued by the Department of Public Safety in three (3) classifications: Class A, B, or C. CDLs are an “endorsement” to the operator’s underlying Class D license and not a separate driver license. If the Class D is suspended or revoked for any reason, the CDL endorsement is automatically “disqualified” and the CDL holder may not operate a commercial vehicle. However, the converse is not the same; a valid Class D operator license may be held while the CDL is disqualified, either for a limited duration or permanently.
Statutory prohibition for any “Pre-Trial Diversion” “Deferred Prosecution” or alternative adjudication for CDL holder or commercial vehicle operator:
Section 32-6-49.22 - Penalties:
- Any person who violates Section 32-6-49.4 shall be guilty of a Class B misdemeanor and, upon conviction thereof, shall be sentenced or fined, or both, as provided by law.
- No person charged with a violation of the commercial driver license laws of this state shall be eligible for any deferred prosecution program, diversion program, or any deferred imposition of judgment program.
Section 32-6-49.23 - Ineligibility for deferred prosecution program, diversion program, etc., upon charge of traffic law violation:
A holder of a commercial driver's license, an operator of a commercial motor vehicle, or a commercial driver learner permit holder who is charged with a violation of a traffic law in this state shall not be eligible for a deferred prosecution program, diversion program, or any deferred imposition of judgment program.
Section 12-23A-13 [“Alabama Drug Offender Accountability Act” Drug Court Program] - Persons ineligible to participate:
A holder of a commercial driver's license, a commercial driver learner's permit holder, and any other operator of a commercial motor vehicle that is subject to Part 383 of the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations shall be ineligible to participate in any drug court program.
Conviction: Conviction is defined under the Code of Federal Regulations as: "An unvacated adjudication of guilt; finding by a court or an authorized administrative body of a violation; forfeiture of bail; plea of guilty or nolo contendere; payment of fine or court cost; or violation of a condition of release without bail. 49 CFR 383.5.
The Code of Alabama, 1975, section 32-5A-195(i) defines the term “conviction” using similar wording, except that the Alabama statutory language does not include the term “authorized administrative body” and only uses the word “court” for the tribunal having jurisdiction over the offense.
Prior to November 2012, the Department of Public Safety would not take action against an Alabama driver license with CDL endorsement until notice of final conviction was received. In many instances, the CDL operator would avoid a “conviction” and the entry of the violation on the CDL operator’s license by payment of court costs to the trial court, as payment of court costs does not constitute a “conviction” under Alabama law.
As of November 2012, that scenario has changed. The Department of Public Safety now screens all U.T.T.C.s to determine if the CDL holder was operating a commercial motor vehicle at the time the violation occurred, and if so, was the case dismissed “upon payment of court costs.” If that is the case, the violation is then entered on the CDL operator’s MVR as the equivalent of a “conviction” under 49 CFR 383.5. The disqualification process set forth in Code section 32-6-49.3(21) is then controlling.
Practitioners that represent CDL clients should be especially cautious in settling or agreeing to settle any traffic case that contemplates “dismissed upon payment of court costs” as that language expressly constitutes the equivalent of a conviction under the federal regulations.
Note: License removals as a result of the Alabama Administrative License Suspension Act – Any person lawfully arrested for the offense of DUI who is directed to submit to a breath test with the result of .08% or greater (or refuses to submit to the breath test when properly directed) is subject to an administrative license suspension of the Class D operator’s for 90 days and a one year disqualification of the CDL on first violation.
Note: If a Class D operator’s license is revoked, or the CDL endorsement is disqualified for more than one year, the driver must be retested. If the operator’s license is revoked, SR-22 certificate of insurance is required for a period of three (3) years from the date of the revocation order. CDL disqualifications of one year or less are automatic reinstatements and not subject to testing.
Note: A convicted sex offender requiring registration as a sex offender under Title 15 of the Code of Alabama is prohibited from driving a commercial motor vehicle with a ‘S’ or ‘P’ endorsement. [School bus or passenger vehicle, as defined by 32-6-49.10 (2)] Code of Alabama, 1975, section 32-6-49.24.
Section 32-6-49.3 – Definitions:
(21) Serious Traffic Violation: A conviction when operating a commercial motor vehicle of:
- Excessive speeding, involving a single charge of any speed 15 miles per hour or more, above the posted speed limit;
- Reckless driving, as defined under Section 32-5A-190, as amended, or any other state or local law, including charges of driving a commercial motor vehicle in willful or wanton or reckless disregard for the safety of persons or property, improper or erratic traffic lane changes, or following the vehicle ahead too closely;
- A violation of any state or local law related to motor vehicle traffic control, other than a parking violation, arising in connection with a fatal accident; and
- Any other violation of Title 32, Chapter 5A, Article 9, as amended, or any state or local law relating to motor vehicle traffic control, other than a parking violation, which the Director of the Department of Public Safety determines by regulation to be serious.
Section 32-6-49.11 - Disqualification from driving commercial motor vehicle.
(e) A person is disqualified from driving a commercial motor vehicle for a period of not less than 60 days if convicted of two serious traffic violations, or 120 days if convicted of three serious traffic violations, committed in a commercial motor vehicle arising from separate incidents occurring within a three-year period.6 Ways to be Disqualified from Obtaining a CDL/Disqualification of CDL After Conviction:
Major disqualifying offenses: One (1) year loss for driving a regular commercial vehicle; three (3) years for a hazmat vehicle. Lifetime CDL ban for any second offense. Note: There is a possibility of reinstatement after ten (10) years, subject to rules and regulations of the Department of Public Safety. Code of Alabama, 1975, section 32-6-49.11(c).
- DUI that occurred in either a "CMV" (commercial motor vehicle) or “NCMV" (non-commercial motor vehicle). Code of Alabama, 1975, section 32-6-49.11(a)(1). [49 CFR 383.51(b)(1)]
- A second DUI/second major offense in a lifetime = no CDL for life. Second major disqualifying offense does not have to be the same disqualifying offense. Code of Alabama, 1975, section 32-6-49.11(b). A DUI in a personal vehicle prior to September 2005 does not count toward 2 violations in a lifetime. [49 CFR 383.51(b)]
- Driving a commercial motor vehicle with a BAC of .04 or greater. Code of Alabama, 1975, section 32-6-49.11(a)(3)/ 32-6-49.12(c). [49 CFR 383.51] [Note: School bus or day care driver BAC limited to .02%]
- Leaving the scene of an accident in any vehicle. Code of Alabama, 1975, section 32-10-1(b) – 6 month revocation of Class D operator’s license; one year disqualification if operating a commercial motor vehicle – 32-6-49.11(a)(3). [49 CFR 383.51(b)(5)]
- Any felony involving a motor vehicle. Code of Alabama, 1975, section 32-5A-195(j)(4) – six month revocation of Class D operator’s license; one year disqualification of CDL. [49 CFR 383.51(b)(6)] Note: If the felony involves the manufacture, distribution or dispensing of controlled substances using any motor vehicle, the Code and CFRs require a lifetime disqualification upon first conviction. Code of Alabama, 1975, section 32-6-49.11(d). 49 CFR 383.51(b)(9)
- Conviction for negligently causing the death of another person while driving a commercial motor vehicle. [49 CFR 383.51(b)(8)] Note: Alabama refers to negligent motor vehicle death convictions as “manslaughter or homicide by vehicle” - One year revocation of Class D operator’s license under Code of Alabama section 32-5A-195(j)(1) and Alabama Administrative Code.
- Driving a commercial motor vehicle with a revoked or cancelled CDL or while otherwise disqualified from driving a commercial motor vehicle. Code of Alabama, 1975, section 32-6-49.7 [49 CFR 383.51(b)(7)] One to five year disqualification of CDL; punished as an unscheduled misdemeanor offense. Code of Alabama, 1975, sections 32-6-49.11(f)(1),(2),&(3).