California CDL Traffic Violations: Commercial License Issues

Drivers of commercial vehicles in the state of California are required to have a valid commercial driver's license (CDL). To maintain the license the driver must meet all state regulations as outlined through the California Department of Motor Vehicles. Violations of traffic laws while driving with a CDL can have serious long term consequences and limit your ability to operate a commercial vehicle in the future.

Introduction To California CDL Laws and License Issues

In California there are different exceptions to the CDL requirements determined by the state, as well as special certificates needed for transporting different types of materials on commercial vehicles. In general, the type of vehicle under which you take your CDL will restrict or limit the types of vehicles that the CDL is valid for. To obtain a state CDL, the applicant must be a California resident and must report any prior CDLs or driver's licenses held in any other state or country.

Moving Violations

Within the state of California, almost all large vehicles requiring a CDL to operate will have a maximum speed limit of 55 miles per hour. Drivers with a commercial driver's license that are operating at rates of speed 15 mph or more will face suspension of their license for 60 to 120 days, depending on the number of prior offenses. There will also be points awarded in the case of speeding with a CDL, and these are one and half times more than the same offense for a driver without a CDL. Moving violations can include failure to stop at a stop sign or red light, as well as failure to yield or stop. These violations will vary based on the specifics of the charge, including a possible charge of negligent operation of a CMV (commercial motor vehicle). In these cases, the penalties are often thousands of dollars in court fees and fines, as well as suspension of the CDL for up to a year, even with a first charge.  

CDL Specific Violations

Since large vehicles are more likely to cause serious damage and injury on the roads, the charges and fines for CDL specific violations are more significant than for non-CDL drivers. These violations can include lane violations and speeding while towing. Specific fines for traveling outside of designated roads, logbook violations and violating grade restrictions are also an issue. In most cases these tickets will result in the deduction of one and a half points from your license.

DUI Charges

Recent changes in the laws in California now have much stiffer penalties for drivers with a CDL that are charged with a DUI. Under the California laws for CDL holders, the commercial vehicle cannot be operated with a BAC of 0.04 or higher. In addition to the charges, which can include permanent loss of a CDL, those found guilty on a first offense may have to spend two days in jail and pay thousands of dollars in court costs, fines and attend a mandatory alcohol awareness and education program. If the company has issued an EPN, or Employer Pull Notice, the Department of Motor Vehicles contacts the company directly regarding any conviction or suspension of the CDL. Companies typically consider this grounds for termination.

Impact on a Commercial Driver's License

Violations in the above categories will have a significant impact on your ability to continue to hold a CDL. In California, out of state tickets also count against your license. If the state issuing the ticket has the same law as California, it essentially reflects on your license as if the ticket or charge occurred in the state. If California does not have the same type of violation, an equal violation will be assigned based on the laws on the books.

Options For Defense

With possible loss of employment and livelihood resulting from these types of violations, getting an attorney familiar with defending CDL drivers is essential. In some cases the case may be dismissed if the attorney can prove inaccuracies or failure of the ticketing officer in following state law. Even if your case is already closed, there may still be options for fighting the case with a qualified attorney. Since CDL violations are cumulative and can result in much more significant penalties in the future, fighting each charge is important.

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