When Your Job Is at Stake
CDL holders are held to a higher standard than non-commercial vehicles, both on and off-duty. Needless to say, CDL holders must be extra careful on the road at all times. Commercial drivers can face more than just a fine if they get a traffic citation; they can face discipline or even lose their job. This is true even if they were driving their personal vehicle off-duty at the time.
Employer Policies Can Vary
Because employers' policies on traffic citations vary, you should check with your employer to better understand his or her policy on off-duty traffic citations. Certain citations may result in probation or even termination with a strict employer while others may tolerate certain kinds of off-duty citations. It is important to know what the stakes are when facing a traffic citation so you can make an educated decision about how to handle your case. But the bottom line is, yes, an off-duty traffic citation could affect your CDL. When you incur a traffic citation, the California DMV will be notified.
Until recently, only noncommercial drivers were eligible to attend traffic school. For non-commercial drivers, completion of a traffic school course results in a confidential conviction added to one's driving record, but not a driving point. A law passed in 2013, however, lifted this restriction on commercial drivers in certain situations. Under AB 1888, CDL holders may be eligible to attend traffic school in lieu of having a driving point added to their personal driving record. Though the actual conviction for the offense will still be included on your record, you may be able to keep a point off your record by attending traffic school. To be eligible for traffic school, however, the offense must have been committed in a non-commercial vehicle.
The Negligent Operator Point System
Taking a quick look at the California DMV Negligent Operator Treatment System (NOTS) will help you better understand the stakes when facing an on or off-duty traffic citation. The DMV will assign negligent operator points on the driving records of those convicted of certain traffic offenses that make driving unsafe. Most of these are moving violations, but some non-moving (i.e. fix-it) violations will result in points as well. Traffic citations can result in zero to three points. A minor offense such as missing a light on your license plate will result in zero points on your record, but a more severe offense such as a hit and run will result in two points. Even out of state convictions can result in a point being added to your California driving record. If you accumulate enough points in a specified period of time, your license can be suspended or revoked for a certain period of time. You may receive a warning letter and a notice of intent to suspend before your license is actually suspended. Take these notices seriously, and contact an attorney if you receive one. An attorney may be able to request a NOTS hearing to challenge any action being taken against your driving privileges.
Restrictions and Limitations
It is important to understand that while you might avoid a driving point by attending traffic school, the offense will still be viewable by insurance companies, and this could affect your employment as a commercial driver. Again, check with your employer on policies regarding insurance and traffic citations. Also, the offense will still be added to your commercial driving record, so your employer will be able to view the offense as well. Traffic school could permit you to keep your CDL valid, but how insurance companies and your employer choose to deal with your citation is up to them.
When facing the potential to lose your CDL license, the more you know the better off you are. Check with your employer to determine what consequences you could face. Then, speak with a trusted California criminal defense attorney with experiencing handling driving crimes and traffic citations. Many traffic citations can be fought, and some might render you eligible to attend traffic school, as long as the offense was committed in your personal vehicle off-duty.
If you're concerned about losing your CDL, contact attorney Christopher Martens and his legal team for help in Tulare, Fresno or Kings County. Experienced in driving crime defense, our Visalia area legal team can advise you of your rights and can aggressively advocate on your behalf in court. Attorney Martens has over ten years experience in criminal defense and won't be afraid to take your case all the way to trial. Call our Visalia or Hanford, CA offices at 559-967-7386 or email us at [email protected] for a free consultation.