Commercial Driving Violations and DWI Charges Lawyer

New Jersey CDL Defense Attorney

Commercial drivers in New Jersey are required to comply with the same rules of the road that apply to private drivers. The penalties for commercial traffic violations are often more severe, however, and frequently result in license suspensions and revocations. Truckers and bus drivers need to be aware of the laws governing commercial vehicles because losing their license often means losing their career and livelihood as well, and having even minor traffic violations on their record can make it difficult to find or maintain employment.

Because the consequences can be so severe, commercial drivers should always consult with an attorney about traffic tickets and other violations. Contact Anthony N. Palumbo at the Law Offices of Palumbo & Renaud to discuss your case at 1-866-664-8118.

Requirements for a Commercial Drivers Licenses

Drivers need to obtain a commercial drivers license or "CDL" in order to operate tractor trailers, combination vehicles, large single-body trucks, buses, and vehicles carrying hazardous materials. To be eligible for a CDL, drivers must be 18 years old and already have a basic New Jersey drivers license. They must also pass a knowledge and road test and comply with the medical fitness requirements established by the U.S. Department of Transportation. Additionally, drivers must pass a background test in order to operate vehicles carrying hazardous materials.

Commercial DWI and Refusal Offenses

CDL drivers are subject to a stricter alcohol limit than private drivers and they also face harsher penalties for drunk driving offenses:

  • The threshold for determining intoxication is set at .04% blood alcohol content under the CDL law, as opposed to .08% under the state's general DWI law;
  • The penalty for a first-time commercial DWI is a one year CDL suspension (or a three year suspension if the violation occurred while transporting hazardous materials), as opposed to a 3-7 month suspension for non-commercial drivers; and
  • The penalty for a second commercial DWI is permanent CDL revocation, as opposed to a two year suspension for a non-commercial driver's second offense or a 10 year suspension for their third offense.

The .04% blood alcohol limit applies only when CDL drivers are operating commercial vehicles, and the typical .08% standard applies when they drive other vehicles. Committing a drunk driving violation while operating a private vehicle still counts as an offense under the CDL law, however, and will result in the same suspension as an offense committed in a commercial vehicle.

Commercial drivers also face a one-year CDL suspension for first-time breathalyzer refusal offenses and a permanent CDL revocation for second-time violations, whether committed in a commercial or non-commercial vehicle.

In addition to these regulations, federal law prohibits commercial drivers from using alcohol less than four hours before operating a commercial vehicle. Drivers found to be in violation of this rule will be placed under an out-of-service order for 24 hours.

Other Commercial Driving Violations

The same license suspensions that apply for commercial DWIs also apply if a commercial driver is convicted for leaving the scene of an accident, driving a vehicle during the commission of a felony, or violating any traffic law in connection with a fatal accident. A first offense, whether committed in a commercial or private vehicle, results in a one year CDL suspension, and a second offense results in permanent revocation.

Other CDL penalties are as follows:

  • Commercial drivers face permanent CDL revocation if they use a commercial or non-commercial vehicle in the commission of a drug manufacturing or distribution crime.
  • Failure to stop at a grade crossing results in a 60 day CDL suspension for first offenses and a 120 day suspension for second offenses committed within three years.
  • Incurring two or more serious traffic violations within a three year period, whether in a commercial or non-commercial vehicle, results in a 60-120 day CDL suspension. Additionally, commercial drivers who receive 12 or more points on their license during a 24 month period may be required to complete a commercial driver improvement program.
  • Operating a commercial vehicle in violation of an out-of-service order results in a CDL suspension of 180 days to one year, a fine of $2,500, and up to 90 days imprisonment. For second offenses within 10 years, the penalties are increased to a 2-5 year CDL suspension, a $5,000 fine, and 90 days imprisonment. The maximum suspension can also be increased to two years if the driver was operating a vehicle carrying hazardous materials or a vehicle designed to carry 16 or more passengers.
  • Log book and other safety violations are subject to penalties pursuant to the federal Motor Carrier Safety Requirements, which have been adopted and incorporated under the New Jersey Administrative Code.
  • The penalties for operating a commercial vehicle without a valid CDL include a fine of up to $500 and up to 60 days in jail, unless the driver has a revoked/suspended CDL or has applied for a CDL in the past and been denied, in which case the penalties are increased and include a fine of up to $5,000 and imprisonment for up to 90 days.

Out of State Violations

New Jersey's CDL penalties apply not only when drivers commit DWIs or other traffic offenses in New Jersey, but also when they commit substantially similar offenses in other states. New Jersey is also required to report CDL violations committed by out-of-state commercial drivers to the appropriate licensing authority in their home state.

NJ CDL Defense Attorney

If you've been charged with a commercial driving offense in New Jersey or are facing suspension of your New Jersey CDL due to an out-of-state traffic violation, call the Law Offices of Palumbo & Renaud at 1-866-664-8118 for a free and confidential legal consultation. Depending on the facts of your case, our legal team may be able to get your CDL violation reduced or even dismissed.