DUI and the Commercial Driver’s License

Defendants in DUI cases who have commercial driver’s license pose a unique set of challenges and considerations for Maryland DUI Attorneys. I have blogged often about the importance of selecting an attorney who specializes in DUI/DWI defense. Unfortunately, all too often we see attorneys with little or no experience with these of cases appearing in court with their clients.

Very often these attorneys make simple mistakes, that no experienced DUI/DWI attorney would ever make, with devastating consequences for their clients. I witnessed one such mistake in the District Court of Baltimore County a few days ago involving a defendant with a commercial driver’s license. The attorney who handled the case was an attorney who has been practicing for many years, mostly doing divorce and personal injury cases. In other words, he was NOT a DUI/DWI specialist. Here are the facts.

The defendant in the case was operating a non-commercial vehicle when he was pulled over for exceeding the speed limit by 10 or 12 miles per hour. The officer noted in his report that the defendant smelled of alcohol, had a flushed face and spoke with slightly slurred speech. He was asked to step out of the car and perform field sobriety tests and he complied. After completing the tests unsatisfactorily, the officer believed he was impaired and he was arrested. He agreed to take the breathalyzer and blew a .11. The defendant had a spotless driving record and, as I noted earlier, a commercial driver’s license.

This is what those of us who handle these cases regularly would refer to as a garden variety DUI. In the attorney who handled this matter’s defense, the case against the defendant was strong and a straight Not Guilt of all charges or a dismissal was highly unlikely. The attorney plead his client guilty to the 21-902 A2, Driving Under the Influence Per Se charge and proceeded to mitigation. The attorney advised the court that his client had a commercial driver’s license and supported his family as a truck driver. The attorney requested probation before judgment so that his client “would be able to maintain his CDL and his employment”. The judge granted the requested and entered probation before judgment. Great Job, right? Actually no.

The problem with this disposition is that under Maryland Vehicle Law 16-803 even a probation before judgment on the more serious “A” violation of Driving Under the Influence results in the mandatory revocation of a person’s commercial driver’s license for a year for the first offense and permanent revocation for a second or subsequent offense. The fact that he received probation before judgment does not save his license; a fact that this inexperienced attorney was obviously unaware. This client is going to have a rude awakening when he is notified that his commercial license and therefore his livelihood will be taken away for a year. Had this client taken the time to do a little research and hired a DUI/DWI specialist it is highly unlikely that this would have occurred.

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