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Commercial Driver License and DWI in New York

The laws prohibiting driving while intoxicated (DWI) in the state of New York are stringent. However, for people who hold a commercial drivers' license (CDL), they are even tougher. Not only do CDL holders have a lower legal limit than other drivers, but they are held to that standard even if they are driving their personal vehicles.

To make matters even worse, most CDL holders rely on their driving rights to make a living, so preserving those rights against a DWI charge is critical.

CDL Holders Face Tougher Standard

Most drivers are deemed to be intoxicated by alcohol if their blood alcohol content (BAC) is 0.08% or above. CDL holders, however, are considered to be too intoxicated to drive if their BAC is at or above 0.04% in New York.

This difference is stark. Having a BAC of 0.04% is rarely enough to get regular drivers into any legal trouble, at all. However, the law wants to make absolutely sure that commercial drivers – who are often behind the wheel of big rigs and tractor trailers that weigh many thousands of pounds – do not get into crashes that are considered avoidable.

This concern for keeping commercial vehicles out of wrecks, however, fails to account for why CDL holders are still held to a lower legal limit when they are in their personal cars.

Penalties for CDL Holders

Together with the lower legal limit for CDL holders, the higher penalties that commercial drivers can face make New York's DWI law for commercial drivers borderline draconian:


Jail Sentence


License Suspension

First Offense

Up to 1 year

$500 - $1,000

1 year

Second Offense

5 days to 4 years

$1,000 - $5,000


If you were hauling hazardous chemicals or materials at the time of the DWI arrest, your license suspension for a first-time offense will be for three years, rather than just one year.

Additionally, the look-back period for CDL holders is different than for regular drivers. For regular drivers, a prior offense of DWI will only make the penalties for a subsequent offense more severe if it happened less than 10 years ago. However, for CDL holders, the law looks all the way back for a prior offense. If you have a DWI on your record from 30 years ago and get arrested, again, that prior conviction can still come back to haunt you.

Finally, while regular drivers are eligible for conditional licenses while theirs is suspended for DWI, CDL holders are not.

New York DWI-Defense Attorneys for Commercial Drivers at Young & Associates

If you rely on your CDL for your income – as most commercial drivers do – then you need to vigorously defend against all accusations that can impinge on your right to drive.

The DWI-defense lawyers at Young & Associates can help. With their help and legal representation, you can rest assured that all steps are being taken to protect your rights and your interests. Contact them online or call their New York law office at (631) 224-7500.

Over 25 Years Experience

When you've been charged with a DWI or traffic offense, call for an attorney with over 25 years experience who is also a retired New York Police Department Sergeant who knows both sides.