Commercial License Holders and a Police Stop and DUI Investigation
Interviewer: I was curious to know about commercial driver’s license holders. Do the same rules apply to them?
To Begin a DUI Investigation, Police Must Have a Reasonable Articulable Suspicion That the Driver Is Impaired by Drugs or Alcohol
Steve Tomeo: Yes. In Connecticut, there really aren’t any rules. When you think about this it’s the way law enforcement decides whether or not a person is under the influence. When a person is being stopped, whether it’s a car or a commercial vehicle, the police officer has to have a reasonable, articulable suspicion as to whether or not the person is doing something wrong. There are a number of driving patterns that could indicate impairment, including: the truck crossing the center line going back to the other lane, going off the right side of the road, driving in an erratic fashion, running a red light, running a stop light, cutting the turn too close, cutting the turn too wide, hitting the curb, or going too slow. Driving patterns like that that are considered erratic, then you’re pretty much assured that you can be pulled over and detained for a great period of time for the officer to assess whether or not you are operating under the influence.
Once the Officer Has Developed Suspicion That the Driver Is Impaired, He Will Request the Driver to Exit the Vehicle to Perform the Field Sobriety Tests
Generally, he’ll ask whether you’re a commercial driver or not, and have you had anything to drink. If you say. “Yes” or if he detects am order similar to an alcoholic beverage and he feels that you’re impaired by some of the responses you give, he can further continue that detention. That will progress to asking you to get out of the car to perform the Standard Field Sobriety Tests (SFST).
DUI Penalties for Commercial Drivers Are More Serious and they Are Considered Impaired at a Lower Level BAC than Other Drivers
Those tests that are given are the same whether you are a commercial driver or a non-commercial driver. If you are a commercial driver the penalties are more serious. For instance, in Connecticut, a driver found to have to have a BAC of 0.08% or more are classified as having elevated blood alcohol concentrations. However, a commercial driver is presumed under the influence, which is a rebuttable presumption, if his BAC is 0.04%, or more.
In Connecticut, a First Offense DUI Can Result in a Commercial Driver Losing His License for a Year; a Second Offense Can Result in a Lifetime Revocation
Disqualification of a Commercial Driver License
The disqualification of a Commercial Driver’s License (CDL) may occur for a variety of reasons. In addition to violations received in Connecticut, convictions from other jurisdictions will be reported to the Department of Motor Vehicles and recorded on your Connecticut driving history. A driver who is disqualified or subject to an out of service order must not operate a Commercial Motor Vehicle (CMV). See CGS 14-44k.
Disqualification for a period of one year will result from any one conviction of:
- Operating under the influence
- Evading responsibility
- Use of a commercial motor vehicle in the commission of a felony
- Refusal to submit to a test to determine blood alcohol concentration or failure of such a test
- Leaving the scene of an accident
- Having an alcohol concentration of 0.04 or greater while operating a CMV
- Driving a CMV when the driver’s CDL is revoked, suspended, canceled, or the driver is disqualified from operating a CMV
If any of the above listed offenses occur while driving a vehicle transporting hazardous materials, the disqualification period will be a minimum of three years for a first conviction.
Two convictions for the above listed violations will result in lifetime disqualification of a Commercial Driver License.
Use of a commercial motor vehicle in the commission of a felony involving controlled substances will result in a lifetime disqualification of a Commercial Driver License.
In addition, a person is disqualified for a period of 60 days from driving a commercial motor vehicle if convicted of two serious traffic violations in or out of state, including but not limited to:
- Speeding in excess of fifteen miles per hour over the posted speed limit
- Reckless driving
- Following too closely
- Improper or erratic lane changes
- Texting and/or the use of a hand-held mobile telephone while operating a CMV
- Driving a commercial motor vehicle without obtaining a CDL
- Driving a CMV without the proper class of CDL and/or endorsements for the specific vehicle group being operated or for the passengers or type of cargo being transported
- Conviction arising in connection with an accident related to the operation of a commercial motor vehicle and which resulted in a fatality
- Driving a CMV without a CDL in the driver’s possession
Any additional convictions of the above listed violations will result in a 120 day disqualification.
If you believe a disqualification is in error, please provide a legible copy of the original ticket and a letter of explanation. Please be sure to include your name, date of birth and current mailing address and telephone number with the area code in your letter. Once completed, mail your correspondence to:
State of Connecticut Department of Motor VehiclesDriver Services Division 60 State Street Wethersfield, CT 06161-1013
Programs and Are Subject to More Stringent Standards Even If They Are Not Driving for Their Employment
Then there are more serious penalties whether you’re a second offender, third offender. The commercial driver is held to a higher standard and he’s held to that higher standard whether he’s driving his commercial vehicle or just driving his family car.
If You Are Asked to Undergo a Standard Field Sobriety Test (SFST) the Police Officer Wil place you in an instructional position and verbally instruct you with regard to the performance of the Eye Test, the Walk and Turn Test and the One Leg Stand Test and will give you a brief demonstration on how to perform the test.
Interviewer: Is there anything else that you’d like to mention regarding the field sobriety tests?
Steve Tomeo: I think we’ve certainly covered what the police are supposed to tell you to do when the police officer is giving you the instructions. Certainly, I want to stress that at least on the walk-and-turn test and the one-leg stand test, not only is the police officer supposed to give you the correct instructions but he’s also supposed to demonstrate how to do these two tests. Failing to Demonstrate the Tests Can Contribute to the Driver’s Inability to Perform the Tests accurately. If he doesn’t give you the correct instructions, the individual is going to have a problem correctly performing the tests. If he does give you the correct instructions but he doesn’t give you a demonstration, the individual can have the problem too. Generally, on the instructions, they mention walking a line and presumably a straight line. Most of the time, when you’re out getting stopped for a DUI and you’re doing these tests, the officer tells you to walk straight line. However, your line is imaginary. Police officers may have you walk on a straight center line in the middle of the roadway or the white fog line on the edge of the road or any place else that is a flat surface free of debris. In many instances there are no white lines to guide you and therefore you are asked to walk in a straight manner.
The Officers Should Ask If You Have a Medical Condition That Would Hinder Your Ability to Perform Any of the Field Sobriety Tests
The officers say they take into consideration all sorts of things. Before they give you the instruction and ask you to do these tests, they’ll ask you, “Do you have anything wrong with you? Do you have any medical condition that will prevent you from doing these tests? Oftentimes you might draw a blank. But a person over 65-years old doesn’t want to say his balance isn’t as good when he was 25 or 35. Maybe a person that has some kind of a traumatic brain injury and doesn’t want to make mention of that or may think they he is healed from the injury. The SFST guidelines indicate that people 65 years of age or older may have balance issues and so giving the test to such a person may not give an accurate test result. So, in such cases it is important to try and document poor performance with regard to senior citizens. Some may suffer from inner ear problems, they may have had a severe brain trauma, suffer from vertigo, have neuropathy, perhaps they are unstable on their feet due to knee, ankle, feet or hip disorders where because of a variety of medical circumstances the balance is affected. In addition to the age issue there is an obesity issue. So, if you have a short person who weighs 250 pounds or more the body weight may be affecting performance. The police are supposed to take this into consideration, but they just try and get you to perform the SFST irrespective of these conditions. On several occasions when the driver brings these issues up the officer will not give the test but the arrest is still made.
Can the Performance of the Field Sobriety Test Be Assessed in an Objective Manner?
If you mention anything that is wrong with you, police officers will say, “I’ll take that into consideration.” What does that mean? Take that in consideration. To my way of thinking it means that you had a traumatic brain injury and you can’t keep your balance—maybe they shouldn’t be giving you the test. I think the judging of an individual’s performance is very subjective. I feel oftentimes, there’s a lack of objectivity, but they are part of the law. The courts say that the police officer can give these tests and make that determination based upon his years of experiences being a police officer. You have the right to dispute these test on issues that the officer did not instruct you properly or that the SFST were inaccurate in your case due to certain medical conditions. There are medical tests for all of these issues and the question is whether you want to spend the money to challenge the police and the prosecutor.