A commercial party bus driver in suburban Chicago is facing serious criminal and professional penalties for reportedly driving two dozen students to their prom while he was drunk.
We don’t want to downplay the seriousness of the alleged offense, but our Birmingham commercial DUI attorneys are troubled that legislators have taken this as an opportunity to grandstand and propose even harsher penalties for all commercial DUI offenders in that state.
All it takes is an overreaction to a singular occurrence like this can result in unnecessary legislation that ends up doing more harm than good.
As it stands, commercial DUI laws are far stricter than they are for any other type of driver, starting with the legal definition of drunk. Except for those under the age of 21, commercial drivers are deemed to be intoxicated when their blood alcohol level reaches a threshold of 0.04 percent. That’s half of what it would be for the rest of the population.
For a 190-pound male, that would be about 2 to 3 drinks in one hour. In some cases, a driver might meet this threshold if he drank a few beers the night before and then got back on the road early in the morning.
In Alabama, per Alabama Code 32-5A-191, the legal limit is even less if you are a school bus or day care driver. In that case, you may not legally have a BAC of 0.02 percent or higher.
Any commercial drivers in Alabama who are convicted of DUI while on duty are subject not only to the normal penalties that they would otherwise receive – which includes up to a year in jail and a maximum $2,100 fine – but they will also be subject to an automatic, one-year driver’s license suspension. Being unable to drive means being unable to work.
And if someone under the age of 14 was in the vehicle at the time of the offense, the fines and penalties are doubled.
So we take away a commercial driver’s money, job, ability to find another job and freedom – and somehow, that isn’t enough?
Apparently not for legislators in Illinois. In this case, the driver was arrested for misdemeanor DUI and reckless driving after he was stopped with a BAC of 0.16 percent. Bear in mind that the criminal penalties he faces for those offenses will be in addition to whatever sanctions he will face as a commercial driver under both state and federal law.
However, state lawmakers are using this opportunity to propose a change to the law that would make all commercial driving arrests fall under the category of an aggravated DUI, which is a Class 4 felony punishable by up to three years in prison. The way the law is now, the felony charge may only be applied to school bus drivers with passengers under the age of 18.
But as anyone who has ever been arrested for a commercial DUI well knows, the potential punishment is steep enough without lawmakers piling on.