In Tampa Bay, Florida, a Driving Under the Influence (DUI) is defined as driving or being in control of a vehicle while normal faculties are impaired. A commercial truck driver is strictly regulated because they are large vehicles transporting very heavy loads across the United States. Commercial truck drivers need to have special driver’s licenses and are held to a higher standard than most drivers of passenger vehicles, and there are no exceptions for drunk driving.
As part of these higher standards, federal law limits the maximum blood alcohol or Breath Alcohol Concentration (BAC) of a commercial truck driver to only half the limit set by Florida state law. A truck driver can be charged with driving under the influence with a BAC of 0.04 as opposed to the state limit of 0.08. This is because truck accidents can be all the more devastating for all persons involved, and these crashes are usually more serious.
At The Law Place, our Tampa personal injury lawyers have a long history of dealing with truck accidents and truck drunk driver cases in Tampa Bay and throughout the state of Florida. Our law firm works as a team to ensure that you can benefit from our combined knowledge and experience, which collectively spans over 75 years. We are available 24 hours a day so that you can speak to us when you need us most. Contact us today for a no-obligation, free consultation on (813) 544-4444.
The Consequences of a DUI Conviction for Commercial Truck Drivers in Tampa
A DUI conviction, especially one which results in a truck accident, can result in serious and life-changing consequences. The penalties arising from a DUI could include mandatory classes, community service, counseling sessions, probation, court costs, expensive fines, suspension of your Commercial Driver’s License (CDL), and even jail time.
In Florida, a DUI conviction will remain on your record for 75 years and can hurt your future prospects for education and employment. This can be even more devastating for truck drivers because, in the event of a suspended license, their livelihood would be seriously affected. Furthermore, your insurance company will not pay out for repairs or medical bills if the driver was under the influence of alcohol. If you or a loved one were arrested on suspicion of drunk driving while operating a truck, which resulted in a car accident, you would need an experienced personal injury attorney to represent you.
What Does It Mean to Be in Control of a Vehicle?
In Tampa, FL, you do not need to be driving your truck to be charged with a DUI. You simply have to be in physical control of a vehicle. This means that you had the capability to use the truck, such as if you were sat behind the wheel and had the keys available to you. The truck itself does not need to be moving.
If you or a loved one are suspected of a DUI in a stationary vehicle, you should take this as seriously as if you were actually driving. Contact an experienced Tampa truck accident lawyer in Florida, as soon as you can.
What to Do at The Scene of a Truck Accident in Tampa Bay
If you cause an accident due to drunk driving whilst operating a truck, there is a greater chance that these crashes will result in catastrophic damage, serious injuries and wrongful death than from accidents initiated by a standard size car.
There are specific steps you should take after any road accident involving a truck or car. However, if you have had something to drink or you could be under the influence of any drug, then the steps you take will be slightly different. These accidents are taken very seriously in Tampa, FL; therefore, you need to take extra care and contact your insurance company and a personal injury lawyer as soon as you can.
Here are the steps you should take:
- Check-in – After an accident, the first thing you should do is check for any injuries. If possible, then move into a safe place.
- Call for emergency assistance – If necessary, then call for an ambulance to tend to any injuries.
- Report on the accident – State law in Tampa FL requires you to report a road accident that caused substantial property damage or injury to the police within ten days. However, in most cases, someone will call the police to the scene of the car accident.
- Avoid making any written or oral statements to police officers – If you are suspected to be at fault for the accident, and a DUI is suspected, then you should contact a DUI lawyer in Tampa, FL before you make a statement to the police.
- Cooperate with testing (or not) – You are free not to take a breath/chemical or field sobriety test. In fact, there is no legal punishment for refusing to participate in a field sobriety test (walk and turn, stand on one leg, horizontal gaze) in Tampa. But there are consequences for refusing a breath or chemical test. You could be ticketed for non-compliance and have to pay administrative and criminal penalties.
- Gather information – Get the name, phone number, and vehicle information of anyone else involved in the accident. Also, gather information from any witnesses, including names and phone numbers. This is especially important if you do not think you were at fault as important information could be missed in the police report.
- Take pictures – If you can, take photos of the scene of the accident. Your photos should include the vehicles involved in the accident and anything else that could be relevant, such as parked cars or skid marks.
- Don’t leave the scene – If you are under the influence of anything, it might be tempting to leave the scene of the accident. However, this could trigger a hit and run claim, which is a felony, especially if someone is injured or property is damaged.
Refusing to Take a Breath or Blood Test
If you are pulled over and arrested for a DUI while driving a commercial vehicle, you will be asked to submit to a chemical test, which is a breath, blood, or urine test. Under Florida law, all drivers’ consent to these tests is implied by having a license and using the state’s roads. If you refuse, you face the consequences.
If you refuse to take a chemical test to determine your BAC, then you will automatically lose your license and become disqualified to drive a commercial vehicle for at least one year. However, you will have the opportunity to request a hearing to argue against this suspension. You must request a hearing within ten days of your arrest and pay a fee.
If your license is revoked despite the hearing, you may apply for a hardship license for your normal driver’s license. However, you cannot obtain a hardship license for your CDL.
The Consequences of a DUI Conviction for CDL Holders
If you are convicted of a DUI based on either impairment due to drugs or alcohol or having a BAC at or above .04 percent while driving a truck, you will be disqualified from driving a commercial vehicle for at least one year. If drivers were carrying hazardous materials at the time, you are disqualified for at least three years. Florida does not allow for hardship licenses for CDLs. Once you complete your entire disqualification period, you will have to ask for your CDL to be reinstated.
You will also face other statutory consequences for this conviction. For a first DUI offense with a BAC below 0.14, you can expect:
- A fine between $500 and $1,000.
- Mandatory community service for 50 hours.
- Jail time up to six months.
- Jail time and probation combined for up to one year.
- The requirement to complete drug or alcohol education or treatment.
- A permanent criminal record.
These accidents can also be damaging for the trucking companies because the actions of their drivers can harm their reputation, and crashes are likely to incur costs for vehicle repairs or even vehicle replacement, as well as legal bills if victims take our claims against the trucking companies themselves.
Request a Hearing
If you are arrested for driving under the influence in Tampa FL, you have just ten days to request an administrative hearing (also called a formal review hearing) with the Florida Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles (FHSMV). If you neglect to do this, then you waiver your right to challenge the suspension of your driving license. Your attorney can help you to fill out the paperwork correctly.
The formal review hearing is an integral part of your case because the department of motor vehicle hearing officers will make significant judgments. They will decide if the officer had probable cause to arrest you and whether you were adequately informed of the consequences of not taking urine, blood, or breath test.
At your hearing, your attorney will cross-examine witnesses such as the arresting officer, as well as subpoena any documents that could be used in a subsequent criminal trial.
If an accident occurred when you were arrested for driving under the influence, this further complicates the case as you may be accused of criminal damage or causing serious injury and may be sued for compensation to cover the victims’ medical bills and other costs incurred by accidents, which the trucking companies will not cover. It is important that you appoint a personal injury attorney to represent you.
The Importance of a Criminal Defense Lawyer in a Truck Driver DUI Accidents Case
If you crash your truck whilst under the influence of drugs or alcohol, your first step should be to contact a car accident attorney. Your livelihood is at risk, and you could be about to face some very serious consequences.
At The Law Place in Florida, we understand how difficult it is to face a truck DUI charge, especially when your commercial driving license is at stake. Our experienced accident attorneys have a vast amount of experience working with truck drivers involved in this kind of accident and will fight for you every step of the way. Contact us today on (813) 544-4444 for a free consultation with a qualified lawyer. Our law firm is based in Sarasota, but practice areas cover all of Florida.