Commercial DWI – Impaired Driving in a Commercial Vehicle

by | Apr 10, 2020 | Blog Posts, NC Criminal Defense

Commercial DWI in North Carolina – Impaired driving (DWI / DUI) in a commercial vehicle has some special considerations and is treated differently than a standard DWI in one major regard. Impaired driving in a commercial vehicle is governed by N.C.G.S. 20 – 138.2. This blog will explore commercial DWI. Like all of our blogs, this blog is intended for informational purposes only and is not intended as a substitute for the advice and counsel of a DWI attorney.

BAC of .04

The biggest difference in standard and commercial DWI is the blood alcohol concentration (BAC) sufficient to prove impairment. In DWI in non-commercial vehicles, a .08 BAC is sufficient to show impairment. If a person was operating a commercial vehicle, however, a BAC of .04 is all that is required to show impairment. Under this theory of DWI, the state must prove, beyond a reasonable doubt, that the driver was operating a commercial vehicle on a public street or highway with a BAC of .04 or higher at any relevant time after driving.

Like standard DWI, impairment in commercial DWI can also be proven by demonstrating that the driver was under the influencing of an impairing substance or had any amount of a Schedule I controlled substance in their blood or urine.

Commercial Vehicle

This offense applies if the impaired driver is operating a commercial vehicle on a public street or highway. A commercial vehicle is defined by G.S. 20-4.01(3d) as:

  1. Class A motor vehicle that has a combined GVWR of at least 26,001 pounds and includes as part of the combination a towed unit that has a GVWR of at least 10,001 pounds;
  2. A Class B motor vehicle; or
  3. A Class C motor vehicle that meets either of the following descriptions:
    1. Is designed to transport 16 or more passengers, including the driver.
    2. Is transporting hazardous materials and is required to be placarded in accordance with 49 C.F.R. Part 172, Subpart F.

Lessor Offense

Commercial DWI is not a lesser offense of standard impaired driving.


If convicted, a person is sentenced according to the standard North Carolina DWI sentencing guidelines.

License Suspension / License Revocation

License suspension is inevitable in North Carolina DWI convictions. This is one of the more severe collateral consequences of DWI in North Carolina.

A person’s CDL will be revoked for one year for the first offense, permanently for the second offense (may be able to apply for reinstatement after ten years), and will be permanently revoked for third or subsequent offenses. Note that a person’s CDL will be revoked in this manner even if convicted of a DWI not involving the operation of a commercial vehicle.

A person also will face a one-year revocation for willful refusal of the post-arrest breath or blood testing regardless of what type of DWI they are charged with.

As a side note, standard DWI results in a one-year license revocation of one’s Class C license for the first offense, a four-year revocation for the second offense, and a permanent revocation for third and subsequent offenses.

Limited Driving Privilege

You cannot get a limited driving privilege for CDL purposes. You may, however, be eligible for passenger vehicle Class C limited driving privileges.

DISCLAIMER – This forum is intended for general questions and comments about the particular law or topic. Comments are public and are not protected by confidentiality or attorney-client privilege; therefore, they can be used against you in court. Please refrain from revealing your identify or specifics about any actual criminal case. No attorney-client relationship is created in this forum.

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