Not long ago we addressed the pitfalls and potentially life-changing consequences for professional drivers who are facing a possible conviction for drunken driving. As many readers will recall, my law firm understands how the threat of losing one’s commercial driver’s license (CDL) due to a drinking and driving charge can be more than overwhelming. Losing one’s ability to make a living due a suspended or revoked CDL can have an economic impact on an individual and his families far beyond that of the average office worker.
As New Jersey DWI defense lawyers, I and my legal team know that any loss of driving privileges can be disrupting to one’s daily life. It is understandable that anyone who uses a motor vehicle to get to and from work would be highly inconvenienced by a license suspension due to DWI, but generally that suspension would not affect most individuals’ livelihood in the way that a similar suspension would a affect a professional driver.
Semi tractor-trailer drivers, cabbies, delivery truck operators and tradesmen rely on their ability to use a company vehicle to directly generate an income. But here in the Garden State, when a person is convicted of a drunk driving offense, the possible loss of private driver’s license has a direct effect on that person’s CDL. And, we might add, when it comes to the rules and regulations surrounding possession of a CDL, federal law has much a lower limit on what is considered drunk driving.
New Jersey’s drunk driving statute strictly prohibits commercial drivers from driving while intoxicated by alcohol or impaired by doctor-prescribed medications or illicit substances like marijuana. Per the state’s Commercial Driver License Act, the blood-alcohol concentration (BAC) defining DWI for a commercial driver is 0.04 percent; compare this to the limit for private motorists (0.08 percent) and one can see how much more strict the law is for holders of a CDL.
With license suspensions ranging from 12 months to three years, it is easy to see how a professional driver may be facing a bleak employment future if convicted on a drunken driving charge, or even a breath test refusal offense. There is much more to CDL-related drunk driving law, but we also wish to impress on people how devastating a drunk driving arrest can be on other professionals in general. Take a news story we ran across from the March timeframe regarding a fire chief in Hudson County who was suspended following a serious multiple-accident DWI-related arrest.
According to that news article, a Bayonne firefighter was allegedly inebriated when police arrested him following three separate auto accidents that the man reportedly caused within a span of just 30 minutes. Based on police reports, the 46-year-old captain was operating a pickup truck along a stretch of 30tht Street around 8:30am when the initial crash took place.
Reports indicate that as the firefighter’s vehicle was headed east near Avenue E, it allegedly ran into the back end of a Chevrolet HHR. At that time, the fire captain exchanged license and insurance information with the driver of the Chevy before he left the scene. Not long after that, as the fireman continued eastbound on 30th St., he allegedly struck another vehicle that was stopped and waiting for a red light. After that crash, police said that the fireman did not remain at the scene and drove off before the victim could get his information.
A third impact occurred, according to police, when the allegedly drunk driver apparently ignored a red light while making a left turn onto northbound Rte 440. This time the fireman’s vehicle was reportedly clipped by a Nissan going south on Rte 440. The force of the impact caused the pickup truck to spin out of control and strike yet another car, and Acura TL, which was traveling in the northbound lane.
Police arriving on the scene reportedly found the fire department captain with watery eyes and the scent of alcohol on his breath. He was injured sufficiently to be taken to the hospital, where he remained for several days recuperating. Meanwhile, police issued a number of summonses against the man, for offenses ranging from failure to report a traffic collision and leaving the scene of an accident to having an open container of alcohol in his vehicle.
As a result, the Bayonne Fire Department announced that it had suspended the officer without pay pending the outcome of a police investigation into the three accidents that occurred on that Tuesday morning.
Bayonne firefighter facing DWI charges suspended without pay after 3 crashes, NJ.com, March 13, 2013