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What If I Have a Commercial Drivers License?

Florida DUI with a Commercial Drivers License (CDL)

Many Florida drivers have not just a standard non-commercial (Class E) drivers license, but rather a Commercial Drivers License (CDL).  The basic rules about CDL's are established by Federal law, specifically Title 49 or the Code of Federal Regulations. (CFR)  The states are charged with enforcing CDL law, but it is almost identical from state to state.  If you are driving a commercial vehicle, you will be in violation of the law if your breath alcohol is over .04--one-half the alcohol concentration for noncommercial drivers.

Even if you are in a non-commercial vehicle, conviction of a DUI will result in a one year disqualification to drive on your CDL.  And a second DUI--even in a private vehicle--will result in a LIFETIME CDL disqualification.

The following is a summary of the law of Florida:

Driver License Classes and Endorsements

Commercial Driver Licenses (CDL)

CLASS A: Trucks or truck combinations weighing with a Gross Vehicle Weight Rating of 26,001 lbs. or more, provided towed vehicle is more than 10,000 lbs.

CLASS B: Straight trucks weighing 26,001 lbs. Gross Vehicle Weight Rating or more.

CLASS C: Vehicles transporting placardable amounts of hazardous materials, or vehicles designed to transport more than 15 persons including the driver with a Gross Vehicle Weight Rating of less than 26,001 lbs.NonCommercial Driver Licenses

CLASS E: Any non-commercial motor vehicles with Gross Vehicle Weight Rating (GVWR) less than 26,001 pounds, including passenger cars, 15 passenger vans including the driver, trucks or recreational vehicles and two or three wheel motor vehicles 50 cc or less, such as mopeds or small scooters. (see below). Farmers and drivers of authorized emergency vehicles who are exempt from obtaining a commercial driver license must obtain a Class E license.

A resident who holds a valid Florida operator license may continue to operate vehicles for which a CLASS E driver license is required, until the operator license expires.

16 year olds cannot drive from 11 PM to 6 AM unless accompanied by 21 year old licensed driver or driving to and from work.

17 year olds cannot drive from 1 AM to 5 AM unless accompanied by 21 year old licensed driver or driving to and from work.CLASS E-Learner: Motor vehicles less than 8,000 LBS.A resident who holds a valid Florida learner license may continue to operate vehicles for which a CLASS E learner license is required, until the license expires.

Learner license has the following conditions:

Always with a licensed driver who is at least 21 years old and occupies the front seat.

Only drive during daylight hours for the first three months, and from 6:00AM to 10:00PM thereafter.

Does not allow for the operation of a motorcycle.Motorcycles

For those authorized to operate motorcycle, the following abbreviation will appear on the front of the driver license under the expiration date: MOTORCYCLE ALSO or MOTORCYCLE ONLY


For our Military servicemembers and families, important information and assistance is available here.

CDL Exemptions

The following persons are exempt from the requirements to obtain a commercial driver license:

Drivers of authorized emergency vehicles that are equipped with extraordinary audible warning devices that display red or blue lights and are on call to respond to emergencies;or

Military personnel driving military vehicles; orFarmers transporting farm supplies or farm machinery, or transporting agricultural products to or from the first place of storage or processing or directly to or from market, within 150 miles of their farm; or

Drivers of recreational vehicles used for recreational purposes; or

Drivers who operate straight trucks (single units) that are exclusively transporting their own tangible personal property which is not for sale.

An employee of a publicly owned transit system who is limited to moving vehicles for maintenance or parking purposes exclusively within the restricted-access confines of a transit system's property.

A commercial vehicle is any vehicle used in commerce with a gross weight rating of 26,001 pounds or more. 49 CFR 383.5 / 42-4-402(4)( a)(1); 402(6)

Disqualification from having a CDL

There are 6 ways to be disqualified from having a CDL:

Convictions for: (Note that a DMV revocation hearing counts as a conviction) Conviction is defined as "An unvacated adjudication of guilt; finding by a court or an authorized administrative body of a violation; forfeiture of bail; plea of guilty or nolo contendere; payment of fine or court cost; or violation of a condition of release without bail. 49 CFR 383.5

If a commercial drivers license is revoked, or it is suspended for more than 1 year, the driver must be retested. Suspensions under 1 year are automatic reinstatements.

1. Major disqualifying offenses. (1 year loss for driving a regular CV. 3 years for a hazmat vehicle. Lifetime CDL ban for a second offense ) Unlike many other states, Florida does not allow for reinstatement after 10 years under the federal law.

a. Any conviction of an alcohol-related traffic offense in a "Commercial Motor Vehicle" OR in a Non-commercial Motor Vehicle. 49 CFR 383.51(b)(1)

b. A second DUI in a lifetime disqualifies the driver from ever having a commercial drivers license for life. This applies to the entire range of DUI-related suspensions (DUI, Refusal to give a breath sample,  have to be the same disqualifying offense. A DUI in a personal vehicle prior to September 2005 does not count toward 2 in a lifetime. 49 CFR 383.51(b)

c. Driving a Commercial Motor Vehicle with a Breath or Blood Alcohol Content in excess of .04. 49 CFR 383.51

d. Leaving the scene of an accident in any vehicle. 49 CFR 383.51(b)(5)

e. Any felony involving a motor vehicle. 49 CFR 383.51(b)(6)

f. "If the felony involves the manufacture, distribution or dispensing of controlled substances, then the driver is disqualified for life on the first conviction." (Mobile meth labs, for example) 49 CFR 383.51(b)(9)

g. Conviction for negligently causing the death of another person while driving a Commercial Motor Vehicle. 49 CFR 383.51(b)(8) .

h. Driving a Commercial Motor Vehicle with a revoked or cancelled commercial drivers license or while otherwise disqualified from driving a Commercial Motor Vehicle. 49 CFR 383.51(b)(7)

2. Serious traffic violations in any vehicle. But if driving a non-Commercial Motor Vehicle, the action is taken only if the triggering conviction also results in a restraint of regular driving privileges. (i.e., a points suspension) 49 CFR 383.51(c)

"2nd conviction for violations occurring within 3 years requires 60 day CDL loss if and only if the conviction triggers loss of regular driving privilege."

"3rd or subsequent conviction for violations occurring within 3 years requires 120 day loss of CDL if the conviction triggers loss of regular driving privilege.""Length of disqualification for serious traffic violations in a Commercial Motor Vehicle." No effect on regular driving privilege is required. 49 CFR 383.51(c)"2nd conviction in 3 years requires 60 day loss of CDL.""3rd or subsequent conviction in 3 years requires 120 loss of CDL."

*** Under federal law, Judges are not allowed to "mask" convictions. 49 CFR 384.226. "The state must not mask, defer imposition of judgment, or allow an individual to enter into a diversion program that would prevent a commercial drivers license driver's conviction for any violation, in any type of motor vehicle, of a state or local traffic control law (except a parking violation) from appearing on a driver's record, whether the driver was convicted of an offense committed in the state where the driver license is licensed or another state." -- This means that, where CDL's are concerned there is no sealing or expungement of records, and no withheld adjudications or pretrial intervention.

a. 15 MPH over the limit. 49 CFR 383.51(c)(1)

b. Reckless 49 CFR 353.51(c)(2) NOTE: Careless is not a serious violation due to vagueness.

c. Improper or erratic lane changes. 49 CFR 383.51(c)(3)

d. Following too closely. 49 CFR 383.51(c)(4)

e. Driving a Commercial Motor Vehicle without having obtained a commercial drivers license. 49 CFR 383.51(c)(6)

f. No commercial drivers license in possession 49 CFR 383.51 (c)(7)

g. Having a commercial drivers license with the incorrect class or endorsement.

h. Being convicted of any motor vehicle violation (non-parking) , no matter how minor (e.g., burned out light bulb), when involved in a fatal accident. 49 CFR 383.51 (c)(5)

3. Railroad grade crossing violations 49 CFR 383.51(d)

a. These violations apply only if the CDL holder is driving a Commercial Motor Vehicle at the time of the violation:

60 days for 1st conviction. 120 days for 2nd conviction in 3 years. 1 year for 3 or more convictions in 3 years.

4. Violations of out-of-service orders. Driver, vehicle 49 CFR 396.7(c)(1), or motor carrier is out-of-service. No conviction required. Must be driving a Commercial Motor Vehicle. Driver is placed out of service for 24 hours. 49 CFR 383.51(c) /

a. Consumed alcohol within the preceding 4 hours. 49 CFR 392.5(a)(1)

b. Any detectable alcohol in system. 49 CFR 392.5(a)(2)

c. Driver "on duty" has personal possession of alcohol. "On duty" constitutes more than just driving. 49 CFR 392.5(a)(3)

d. Driver on duty refuses chemical test. This does not require PC to test. (e.g., Every driver at a weigh station could be asked to submit to a test)

e. Out of service for time violations. 49 CFR 395.3; 395.5; 395.13 (Time is extended for adverse weather conditions. 49 CFR 395(1)(b)

Driver of property-carrying vs. passenger-carrying Commercial Motor Vehicle out of service requirements are different. More serious for property-carrying due to weight of vehicles.

Violating an out-of-service order


1st conviction: 90 days to 1 year if non-hazmat. 180 days to 2 years if hazmat. Plus $1,100 to $2,750. 49 CFR 383.51(c)(1)

2nd conviction: 1 to 5 years if non-hazmat. 3 to 5 years if hazmat.

3 or more in 10 years: commercial drivers license disqualified for 3 - 5 years no matter what type of Commercial Motor Vehicle you are driving.

State laws may be more restrictive

In Florida, you are entitled to a hearing. The issue at the hearing is "Did the driver receive a conviction or deferred sentence for violating an OSO?" The HO can reduce the period of disqualification after considering;

a. The circumstances of the violation.

b. The driving record.

c. Aggravating and mitigating factors.

d. Other factors the HO finds relevant. Under no circumstances shall the period be less than the minimum length.

5. Cancel / Deny based on false statement. 49 CFR 383.73(g) The only issues at the hearing are:

a. Whether the driver falsified information.

b. Whether the driver was under restraint at the time of the application for the commercial drivers license.

If either issue is found, no commercial drivers license for 60 days. Any driving restraint whatsoever means no commercial drivers license

6. Driver an imminent hazard (By federal authorities) 42 CFR 383.5; 383.52; 386.72(b)(1) ; 392.3

At the Hudson Law Office, we focus our criminal practice on one thing:  the defense of DUI cases.  Tom Hudson is trained as a Breath Test Operator, as a NHTSA Drug Recognition Expert (DRE), and as an Instructor of the Standardized Field Sobriety Tests.  He regularly trains other lawyers in the scientific principles underlying DUI prosecutions, and he is the only lawyer in Florida who has successfully completed the challenging Board Certification Examination given by the National College for DUI Defense.  There is simply no one in this region with more training and experience to defend your DUI charge.

We try a lot of DUI cases, which means that the State Attorneys know us and know that we are not bluffing.  Experience makes a difference.  Let us make a difference for you.  Call us at 941-957-0500.

Why We're Different

Board Certification as a DUI Specialist by the National College for DUI Defense. Formal NHTSA Certification as an Instructor of the Standardized Field Sobriety Tests given by police in DUI cases. Formal training as a NHTSA Drug Recognition Evaluator. ("Drug Evaluation & Classification") Formal training to operate the Intoxilyzer 8000, Florida's official breath test instrument. Extensive experience in teaching other attorneys how to handle DUI cases. Hundreds of jury trials both as defense lawyer and as prosecutor.