Minnesota commercial DWI laws are different from “regular” DWI laws. Perhaps the most important difference is that for a commercial driver’s license (CDL) holder, state law criminalizes driving, being in control or, or operating any commercial motor vehicle with a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) or .04 or above. This is an important distinction from the law for non-commercial vehicles where the threshold BAC is .08.
Whereas a DWI conviction is generally a serious matter, for commercial drivers there are other considerations. Regardless of what the individual was driving, loss of a CDL as a result of a DWI has serious implications. Essentially, no license equals no work. Commercial drivers who are convicted of a DWI are required to inform their employers and may be terminated.
Which occupations require a CDL?
Obtaining a CDL is difficult not only in Minnesota but all over the US because these license holders are held to both federal and state standards.
A CDL is required for several types of jobs such as:
- Taxi driver
- City or school bus driver
- Delivery truck driver
- OTR semi-trailer drivers
- Heavy equipment haulers
Pursuant to Minnesota’s Department of Public Safety, there are three classes of CDL. A Class A CDL is for any vehicle weighing more than 10,000 pounds GVWR (gross vehicle weight rating) with a combination weight rating of more than 26,000 pounds. A Class B CDL is for a single-unit vehicle that weighs more than 26,000 GVWR. A Class C CDL is a single-unit vehicle that weighs less than 26,000 GVWR that has a passenger, school bus, or hazardous materials endorsement.
First offense penalties
For CDL holders, a first Minnesota DWI conviction will result in loss of the CDL for one year, even if the person wasn’t driving a commercial vehicle at the time of the arrest. Further—not unlike a non-commercial driver—the CDL driver refuses to submit to an alcohol test, his/her license will also be cancelled for a year.
Additionally, if the commercial driver is transporting any hazardous materials at the time of his/her arrest, then his/her CDL is cancelled for three years.
Any subsequent drunk or drugged driving offenses will result in a lifetime revocation of the driver’s CDL.
Commercial drivers are also subject to “regular” criminal penalties of a Minnesota DWI such as jail time, fines, court costs, and other administrative sanctions.
A CDL holder need not be driving his/her commercial vehicle when arrested for a DWI. If a commercial driver operates any motor vehicle without a valid CDL and is pulled over, s/he faces jail time and a $5,000 fine. Additionally, his/her employer may also get into legal trouble if s/he directed the driver to work with a revoked license.
Civil lawsuits are also possible if the DWI results in an accident and/or injury to another person or property damage.
License plate impoundment
Commercial drivers are also at risk for license plate impoundment. Reasons for commercial license plate impoundment include: DWI, CDL revocation due to test refusal or failure, or repeat offenses within the prior ten years.
Out of state commercial drivers
Pursuant to Federal Regulation 383.51, any commercial driver must report any and all DWI convictions even if obtained in another state. Failure to report may subject his/her CDL to suspension plus any other associated penalties.
The bottom line
Given the potentially huge legal, civil, administrative, and personal ramifications of a DWI conviction, commercial drivers should immediately consult a Minnesota DWI attorney if arrested who can not only apprise them of their rights but also work to protect their livelihood.