OVI: Still the CDL Death Penalty in Ohio, Part 1

In January, 2012, Ohio's commercial driver's license (CDL) statutes were re-vamped with the passage of House Bill 337. Among other things, H.B. 337 expanded the causes for disqualification from operating a commercial motor vehicle by any CDL holder, or commercial motor vehicle operator, to include a license suspension for operating a vehicle under the influence of alcohol or drugs. And while H.B. 337 changed some of the provisions regarding OVI convictions, it remains clear that the legislature intended for a CDL holder to be disqualified from operating a commercial vehicle upon a conviction for OVI and/or being charged with an administrative license suspension (ALS) pursuant to Ohio's implied consent laws.

Please keep in mind that these substantial ramifications can result regardless of whether or not the CDL holder was driving a personal vehicle or commercial vehicle at the time of the alleged violation. Current law now states that upon a first suspension imposed under Ohio's general Implied Consent law, or a similar law of another state or foreign jurisdiction, the period of disqualification is one year. Upon a second suspension imposed under Ohio's general Implied Consent law, or a similar law of another state or foreign jurisdiction, the period of disqualification is life or any other period of time as determined by the United States Secretary of Transportation and designated by the Director of Public Safety by rule. Based upon further provisions in the CDL statute, these disqualification periods also appear to apply to OVI convictions as well.

Due to the fact that OVIs and ALS suspensions can carry such devastating consequences for a driver's CDL, it is imperative to challenge the OVI and/or ALS. By avoiding an OVI conviction and/or ALS, a CDL holder will likely be able to circumvent the potential subsequent CDL disqualification process, thereby saving one's ability to continue to operate a commercial vehicle. But that means successfully fighting the case on the trial level. Unfortunately, if the case is not successfully defended on the trial level, the only possible respite would be to take the much more tenuous road of challenging the disqualification at the administrative hearing level. Having said that, the easiest way to avoid a CDL disqualification is to avoid the administrative process outright.

Part 2 of my blog will discuss the administrative appeals process and what you should do if you are actually facing a CDL disqualification from the BMV based upon an OVI conviction or ALS suspension…