What happens to your CDL after a DUI citation or conviction is serious business. If you drive a commercial vehicle for a living, a DUI on your record can immediately disrupt or permanently cost you your livelihood.

This article covers the basics of what CDL holders and those who hope to become commercial drivers need to know about how driving under the influence may affect them.

A CDL is a Commercial Driver’s License and requires Federal training and testing. The Department of Transportation regulates CDLs.

Federal law mandates that a person driving on a CDL that receives a DWI will lose his/her license for a minimum of one year for their first offense. A second offense will strip their CDL permanently.

The legal limit while operating a commercial vehicle is much lower than the limit for people driving on regular licenses. Blowing a 0.4% while operating a commercial vehicle will get you cited and in trouble with the feds. In some states, like Florida, you can get cited even lower than that white in possession of a commercial vehicle.

Typically, states will suspend the license of a driver charged with a DUI whether or not the driver is convicted of the crime in court.


What Offenses Can Get My CDL Suspended? 

As a CDL holder, you may also get your license suspended for any of these offenses:

  • Refusal to submit to a blood test to determine your blood alcohol content
  • Leaving the scene of an accident in which there was property damage or injury or both
  • Operating a commercial vehicle with a CDL that has been suspended, canceled, or revoked.
  • Committing any felony with either a personal or commercial vehicle

For a comprehensive list of offenses that can get your CDL suspended or revoked, click here. 

Can I refuse a field sobriety test if I have a CDL?

No. CDL holders are required to take a field sobriety test if stopped by a law enforcement officer. Refusing a test results In an automatic 1-year license suspension for CDL holders. If you refuse another field test, your CDL will be suspended permanently.

For professional drivers, this usually results in job loss – and possibly the loss of your career.

Things are different for non-CDL drivers. In most jurisdictions, there are no legal penalties for a non-CDL holder refusing to take a breathalyzer test in the field. But CDL holders are held to a higher standard.


Can I Get a new CDL after a DUI?

It does not automatically disqualify you from getting a new CDL if, for example, your DUI happened more than three years ago and you have been compliant since then. In that case, you may be asked to provide more details about your charge, and they may deliberate on whether you are eligible for a CDL or not. However, if you have a recent DUI conviction (less than 3 years), you will likely not be allowed to get a commercial license.

Note that while you may still qualify for a CDL if you have a DUI on your record, employers and trucking firms will nearly always check your record before bringing you aboard as an employee. Most of them will be very reluctant to hire you, unless many years have elapsed since your conviction.

Having a DUI makes it harder for you to obtain or keep a CDL, so simply pleading guilty without speaking to an attorney may not be in your best interest.


Can I get a hardship CDL after a DUI?

Not to drive a commercial vehicle. In some cases, you may be able to get a hardship license that will allow you to drive a personal vehicle to work or to medical appointments only. But those hardship exceptions won’t apply to your CDL.

State Specific CDL Laws