State Allowed to Suspend Driver’s CDL Despite Dropped DUI Charge

DWI/DUI arrests can be damaging for anyone, but especially so for a commercial driver. One man, who was arrested on suspicion of DUI but was never convicted of any crime, nevertheless lost his commercial driving privileges for a year. The Louisiana Court of Appeal ruled that the statute that pertains to CDL suspensions allows the state to suspend a driver’s commercial privileges for a year based solely on that driver’s refusal to submit to a blood-alcohol test.

Robert Navarre was pulled over in April 2011 near Lake Charles and arrested for driving drunk. The officer asked the driver to submit to a blood test, but he declined. Based upon the driver’s refusal to complete the blood test, the state’s Office of Motor Vehicles suspended his personal driver’s license for one year, as permitted by statute. The state also barred the driver from driving a commercial vehicle for one year.

Navarre appealed, but an administrative law judge upheld the state’s decision. The driver then contested this ruling in the District Court. While his license case was pending in the District Court, the state dismissed all the criminal charges, including the DUI. Based on this dismissal, the judge agreed that the driver had not committed an offense required to trigger the suspension and ordered all of his driving privileges reinstated.

The state, however, challenged this decision, and the Louisiana Court of Appeal reversed the District Court. The appeals court explained that the statute held commercial drivers to a higher standard than other drivers. The “legislature intended ‘to hold individuals with a CDL to a zero tolerance standard as far as alcohol/drug use and driving,'” the court’s opinion stated.

The misconduct that triggered the suspension of Navarre’s commercial privileges was not necessarily his driving drunk, but his refusal to submit to the test. In a 2011 case, which Navarre cited in support of his case, a driver, Harold Brooks, was arrested for suspicion of DUI and performed a breath test, which registered a .123 blood-alcohol content. Brooks succeeded in getting his driving privileges, including commercial privileges, reinstated after the state dismissed the charges against him. However, this case did not help Navarre because Brooks actually submitted to the test. Brooks had committed no “offense” under the law, since he was never convicted of driving drunk and never refused a blood-alcohol test.

In a later 2011 case, another driver accused of DUI fought for the reinstatement of his commercial privileges. The driver was acquitted of all charges but, like Navarre, he had refused a blood test. In that case, the court ruled that the state could maintain the commercial driving suspension because the driver refused the test.

Navarre’s case was nearly identical. The statute, La. R.S. 32:414.2, dictated a suspension of at least one year based solely upon a “first offense of refusal to submit to an alcohol concentration or drug test, while operating a commercial motor vehicle or noncommercial motor vehicle by a commercial driver’s license holder.” Navarre was arrested while driving, refused the blood test, and possessed a CDL. Under the statute, that was all that was needed for the state to suspend his CDL.

Navarre’s case highlights the importance of understanding the unique set of rules that apply to drivers with commercial licenses. Of these three cases, Brooks was the only driver to complete a blood-alcohol test. Even though his test registered a result above the legal limit, his decision not to refuse the test ultimately was the reason he was the only one of the three to avoid a suspension of his CDL.

With commercial drivers, a license suspension is a matter of highest importance, since a suspension may cut you off from your only way of providing for yourself and your family. If you have a commercial license and you’ve been arrested on suspicion of driving drunk, it is very important that you understand all of your options regarding performing blood-alcohol tests and the ramifications of each choice. Reach out right away to speak to experienced Louisiana DWI/DUI attorneys for advice and representation on your case. The Louisiana DWI/DUI attorneys at the Cardone Law Firm are here to help you navigate the system and have the skills and knowledge you need on your side to help you protect yourself and your ability to earn a livelihood.

For a confidential consultation, contact us online or phone Cardone at 504-522-3333.

More Blog Posts:

Use of Incomplete Breathalyzer Test Result at Trial Triggers Reversal of Drunk Driving Conviction, Louisiana Injury Lawyers Blog, Aug. 27, 2014

State Puts New, Tougher DWI Penalties into Effect, Louisiana Injury Lawyers Blog, Aug. 27, 2014

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