A recent case out of Connecticut recently garnered a lot of media attention when a woman operating a school bus was pulled over during her morning route and arrested for drunk driving. The case shocked many in the community, not only because of her irresponsible decision that day, but also because it was revealed that the woman had previously been convicted of drunk driving.
Though previous convictions for drunk driving aren’t that uncommon, many were shocked that someone with a previous DWI conviction could be allowed to transport children to and from school. In the Connecticut case, the driver was arrested back in 2004 and completed the Connecticut Alcohol Education Program early the next year. Her decision to enroll in the treatment program led to the dropping of her drunk driving charges.
Though the charges went away, they’ve now resurfaced in a big way. Last week, a police officer noticed the bus appeared to veer in and out of its lane several times and chose to follow the bus back to the school where the woman dropped off more than 20 students. After the driver failed a series of field sobriety tests, she was given a breathalyzer, which showed her BAC was 0.134 percent, nearly twice the legal limit and more than three times the limit for those operating commercial vehicles.
The woman’s arrest sheds light on the fact that the law treats commercial drivers differently than ordinary motorists. In Connecticut, as well as here in Minnesota, those with commercial driver’s licenses are held to different standards, not only when it comes to the level of intoxication required to warrant a DWI conviction, but also when it comes to the kind of punishment handed down.
In Minnesota, ordinary drivers can be arrested and charged with DWI if they are found operating a vehicle with a BAC of 0.08 or greater. For those with commercial driver’s licenses, this limit is cut in half, down to 0.04 percent, if driving a commercial vehicle at the time of the DWI. Additionally, penalties are dramatically steeper for those who drive for a living, something that can hit truck drivers, bus drivers and other commercial vehicle operators especially hard.
In Minnesota, anyone with a class A, B or C CDL will be disqualified for one year if he or she is convicted of a DWI. If the driver is transporting hazardous materials at the time of the arrest, a three-year disqualification for commercial driving will follow after conviction. Finally, any subsequent DWI will result in lifetime disqualification from commercial driving privileges, essentially stripping a truck driver of his livelihood.
Though it may seem counterintuitive, these rules apply even when a person holding a CDL is pulled over in their personal vehicle. Anyone who carries a class A, B or C CDL will suffer the same disqualifications even if the incident occurred in a passenger vehicle. Given how swift the punishment can be for those with commercial driver’s licenses, it is crucial that you seek out the advice of an experienced Minnesota DWI attorney as soon as possible to ensure the best defense possible.
Source: “Bus Driver Arrested for Drunk Driving Kids Had Past DUI Charge: Police,” by Louisa Moller, published at FoxCT.com.