A motorist with - or without - a commercial license can be arrested for OWI in Michigan when found in the driver's seat of a commercial motor vehicle. Motorists with or without a commercial license can also be arrested even if the vehicle is parked or stopped, as long as any part of the vehicle intrudes into the road and the officer believes that the motorist was operating the vehicle. Michigan Vehicle Code Section 257.625 prohibits operation of a commercial motor vehicle with a blood alcohol concentration of .04 grams or more.
The laws for commercial drivers are strict, and the consequences of a conviction for operating a commercial motor vehicle when impaired are much more serious. A conviction can mean the end of a career in many cases. Commercial drivers should ensure they develop the most effective OWI defense or consider negotiating a plea deal to a lesser charge so they can reduce the length of a CDL suspension.
Commercial Drivers An Effective OWI Defense
Under Michigan law, a commercial driver who is convicted of a violation of OWI laws is considered to be guilty of a misdemeanor offense. The maximum period of imprisonment is 93 days, and the maximum fine is $300 plus the cost of the prosecution. However, a commercial driver who is convicted of a second OWI within seven years of a prior conviction can be imprisoned for a year and face a maximum fine of $1,000.
With two prior convictions, a third offense is a felony. The minimum fine is $500 and the maximum fine is $5,000. Conviction can also result in either imprisonment for between one and five years, or 48 hours of imprisonment as well as 30 days to one year in the county jail and between60 and 180 days of community service. Minimum jail terms cannot be suspended.
In addition to the jail time that results, a commercial driver will lose his license to operate a commercial motor vehicle. Most commercial drivers are under the jurisdiction of the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration and subject to Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations (FMCSRs).
Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations Section 383.51 requires a one year suspension for a first OWI or for a first time refusal to submit to a blood alcohol concentration test when there is reasonable cause to suspect impairment. If a driver is transporting hazardous materials while impaired, the CDL suspension required by FMCSRs is three years. A second conviction can mean the lifetime revocation of a commercial license.
Commercial drivers can not only face the loss of their CDL for operating a commercial motor vehicle while impaired but can also lose their commercial license for a OWI conviction while in their personal car. This makes it essential for a professional driver to take any accusations of impaired driving very seriously.
An OWI defense can center on suppressing illegally obtained evidence or disproving that the evidence shows intoxication. There are a number of defenses and options for commercial drivers to try to fight conviction or get charges reduced. Getting legal assistance as soon as possible post-arrest is important to have the best chance of keeping a commercial license.