In Texas, picking up a CDL ticket can be life-changing. CDL violations and convictions often incorporate serious penalties that might jeopardize your long-term livelihood. Here are some of the risks you may face and a few ideas on how a lawyer could make them easier to deal with.
How Tickets Impact Your Ability to Obtain a Commercial Driver’s License
Those seeking interstate or intrastate CDL certifications in the state of Texas must meet a number of strict requirements. In addition to satisfying qualifying preconditions, like being 21 or older and not suffering from certain untreated medical problems, you also need to demonstrate your suitability by passing complex knowledge and skills tests.
Drivers who already hold licenses can ease the renewal process with exemptions that permit them to skip skills testing. In order to obtain such an exemption, however, you need to have a pretty clean record as a CDL driver.
Serious Traffic Violations
Having more than one of the following serious violations can instantly disqualify you from test exemption:
- Traveling in excess of 15 mph over the limit,
- Driving recklessly,
- A violation connected to a fatal accident not caused by a vehicle defect or other mitigating circumstance,
- Tailgating, or
- Operating a commercial vehicle without your CDL on your person or without a valid CDL on the books.
You can also lose exemption eligibility if you’re convicted of:
- Driving under the influence of drugs or driving while intoxicated,
- Refusing a blood or breath test,
- Committing any felony involving a commercial motor vehicle,
- Failing to stop and render aid as necessary,
- Committing any violation of a state or municipal traffic law that was related to an accident where you were found to be at fault, or
- Any commercial motor vehicle usage related to a controlled-substance felony.
The Hassles of Disqualification
True, you may be able to overcome these kinds of bad marks on your record by simply gritting your teeth and retaking the skills test. For many drivers, however, this inconvenience might make it harder to stick to demanding employment schedules.
With more new national laws set to place a heavy focus on safer commercial operation, your ticket conviction could increase the difficulty of impressing future employers. Talking to a lawyer about proving your innocence might save you time and keep your career on track.
Risking Your License
Many of the skills-test disqualification factors mentioned above also can stop you from holding a CDL entirely. For instance, different kinds of violations mean you lose your CDL for months.
Here are some penalties you might suffer if you’re deemed guilty. Remember that these are just minimums; the consequences can always get worse.
Railroad-Highway Grade Crossing Violations
The first time you commit these crimes, you may lose your CDL for 60 days. Commit second or third offenses within a three-year time frame, and you’ll lose your license for 120 days or one year, respectively.
Violating Out-of-Service Orders
Your carrier isn’t just being a stickler for rules by ordering you to follow maximum driving hours regulations. The first time you go against an out-of-service order, you’ll lose your CDL for 90 days. Do it again within ten years, and you’ll be off the road for a year. Those who commit more violations than this can expect not to drive for three years or more depending on the severity of their offenses.
Serious Traffic Violations
Being found guilty of a CDL ticket charge for any of the serious traffic offenses listed earlier could also risk your license. The first two violations within three years will earn you an automatic 60-day suspension, and three or more doubles the punishment time.
Alcohol, Felonies and Other Offenses
Texas has strict BAC requirements for CDL drivers. You can only have a BAC of .04 percent, and driving a commercial vehicle is seen as giving implied consent to chemical testing. If you exceed the BAC limit, drive under the influence, refuse testing, leave an accident scene, commit a felony, drive with a suspended CDL or cause a fatal accident due to negligence, you’re going to lose your CDL for at least one year.
The state really doesn’t mess around with these kinds of crimes. Second offenses or controlled-substance felonies mean you lose your CDL for life. If you face one of these situations, it may be wise to talk to an attorney, especially if you plan on building a career around CDL driving.
Personal Vehicle Offenses
Texan drivers can also lose their CDL licenses without ever setting foot near the cabs of their trucks. This is possible because the state adheres to national laws that disqualify you from commercial driving if you’re convicted of a major moving violation in your private vehicle.
In short, getting your personal license cancelled, revoked or suspended might mean an instant CDL disqualification. The most severe violations are associated with the same harsh penalties listed in the previous section.
How an Attorney Might Help With Your CDL Ticket
Commercial driver’s license tickets do more than just hinder your professional growth. They can also lead to you earning a permanent criminal record.
Misdemeanors and felonies that result from your conviction on CDL charges can make it harder to get future jobs in fields that have little to do with commercial driving. Crimes like violating an endorsement or operating while disqualified may also be associated with fines, incarceration or other penalties. Also remember that like Texas, other states are more than willing to count your bad record in one place as grounds for CDL disqualification elsewhere.
Fortunately, being issued a summons doesn’t automatically mean you’re guilty. The state or local attorney must prove that you committed an offense that qualifies under the long list of punishable crimes. This requires them to argue their case before a court and provide appropriate evidence that establishes your guilt beyond reasonable doubt.
Convictions depend on numerous factors. For instance, the police who administered your BAC test, gathered accident evidence or examined your driving logs need to document the information properly and avoid violating any laws themselves. In some instances, the usability of their evidence may be called into question due to extenuating circumstances, like improper calibration of speed-detection radars. Although prosecutors work to portray their arguments as iron-tight, drivers should know they always have options.
Your most effective defense strategy could entail more than simply pleading a certain way. For instance, finding evidence about how your employer maintained the fleet vehicle you were driving may establish that you shouldn’t be faulted. Completing additional safety training while you await your court date might impact how lenient the judge is should you be convicted.
It’s wise to discuss these options with a lawyer as early as possible. To learn more about moving forward after receiving a commercial driver’s license ticket, contact us now.