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How Long Do You Have to Wait to Get a CDL After a DUI

Posted by John Campanella | Aug 18, 2023 | 0 Comments

Obtaining a Commercial Driver's License (CDL) is a significant achievement that opens the door to a variety of career opportunities in the transportation industry. However, a hiccup like a Driving Under the Influence (DUI) conviction can complicate the journey towards acquiring a CDL. In California, as in most states, a DUI can have serious consequences for your driving record and future prospects. In this comprehensive guide, we will delve into the intricacies of how long you have to wait to get a CDL after a DUI in California, outlining the steps to reclaim your driving career while highlighting crucial insights and resources.

Understanding the Impact of a DUI on Your CDL

A DUI conviction carries weighty consequences, especially for those aspiring to hold a CDL. California's stringent DUI laws mean that the impact on your driving record and CDL aspirations can be severe.

1. Suspension Period

Following a DUI conviction, your regular driving privileges will likely be suspended for a specified period, depending on the circumstances and any previous convictions. While this suspension pertains to your standard driver's license, it also indirectly affects your CDL application process.

2. Impact on Your Driving Record

A DUI conviction will leave a lasting mark on your driving record. Potential employers, including trucking companies, regularly scrutinize driving records as part of their hiring process. A DUI can be a red flag, indicating a risk to their cargo, reputation, and insurance premiums.

3. CDL Disqualification

For individuals holding a CDL, a DUI conviction can result in a disqualification from operating commercial vehicles for an extended period. This disqualification period is separate from the suspension period for your regular license.

The Waiting Period: How Long Do You Have to Wait?

The waiting period to get a CDL after a DUI in California depends on various factors. It's important to note that while you may be eligible to apply for a CDL after the waiting period, the DUI conviction will remain on your record, potentially impacting your employability.

1. First DUI Conviction

For a first-time DUI conviction, the waiting period to apply for a CDL is generally one year from the date of conviction. During this period, you must complete all court-ordered requirements, such as attending DUI school, paying fines, and adhering to any probation terms.

2. Subsequent DUI Convictions

If you have multiple DUI convictions on your record, the waiting period becomes more complex. Second and subsequent DUI convictions result in longer waiting periods before you can apply for a CDL. It's crucial to consult legal experts who specialize in DUI cases to understand the specific waiting period that applies to your situation.

3. Implications of Commercial Driver's License Act of 2012

The Commercial Driver's License Act of 2012 introduced federal regulations that further complicate the waiting period. Under this act, a CDL holder who is convicted of a DUI, even when driving a non-commercial vehicle, faces a disqualification period. This period ranges from one year for a first offense to a lifetime ban for a second offense. These federal regulations are in addition to California state laws.

Steps to Reclaim Your CDL After a DUI

Reclaiming your CDL after a DUI in California involves a systematic approach that encompasses legal proceedings, waiting periods, and rehabilitation efforts.

1. Legal Assistance

Seeking legal representation is crucial to navigate the complexities of DUI cases. An experienced DUI attorney can guide you through the legal process, potentially reducing charges or exploring options for expungement.

2. Completion of DUI Sentencing

To begin the waiting period, it's essential to complete all court-ordered requirements, such as attending DUI school, serving probation, and paying fines. Fulfilling these obligations demonstrates your commitment to rectifying your mistake.

3. Substance Abuse Treatment

Engaging in substance abuse treatment programs demonstrates your dedication to overcoming the challenges that led to the DUI conviction. Completion of these programs can positively influence the perception of potential employers.

4. Rebuilding Your Record

During the waiting period, focus on building a positive driving record. This involves adhering to all traffic laws, avoiding any further infractions, and maintaining a clean driving history.

5. Application Process

After the waiting period has lapsed, you can initiate the application process for a CDL. However, remember that the DUI conviction will remain on your record and might affect your employability. Be prepared to address questions about your conviction during interviews.


Acquiring a CDL after a DUI in California is a journey fraught with challenges, but it's not an insurmountable task. Understanding the waiting periods, legal implications, and steps to rectify your situation is essential to make informed decisions and rebuild your driving career. Remember that seeking legal counsel, adhering to court-ordered requirements, and demonstrating your commitment to rehabilitation can all contribute to a successful journey towards obtaining a CDL and reclaiming your professional life on the road.

FAQs About CDL After a DUI in California

1. Q: Can I keep my Commercial Driver's License (CDL) after a DUI in California?

A: It's possible, but your CDL privileges may be suspended or restricted depending on the circumstances.

2. Q: Will my CDL be automatically suspended after a DUI in California?

A: Yes, your CDL will likely be suspended if you're convicted of a DUI, even if you were driving a personal vehicle at the time.

3. Q: How long will my CDL be suspended for after a DUI in California?

A: The suspension period varies, but it could be at least one year for a first offense and longer for subsequent offenses.

4. Q: Can I apply for a restricted CDL during the suspension period?

A: Yes, you may be eligible for a restricted CDL after a mandatory suspension period, which allows limited driving for work purposes.

5. Q: Do I need to notify my employer about my DUI and CDL suspension?

A: Yes, you're required to notify your employer within 30 days of a DUI conviction, even if it occurred while driving a personal vehicle.

6. Q: Will a DUI conviction affect my ability to find future truck driving jobs?

A: Yes, a DUI on your record could negatively impact your job prospects in the trucking industry.

7. Q: Can I contest the CDL suspension after a DUI in California?

A: Yes, you have the right to request a hearing to contest the suspension. It's recommended to consult an attorney.

8. Q: Will I need to complete an alcohol education program for my CDL reinstatement?

A: Yes, completing a state-approved alcohol education program is typically required before you can reinstate your CDL.

9. Q: Can I get a restricted CDL for non-commercial vehicles during suspension?

A: No, a restricted CDL is generally only available for driving commercial vehicles for work purposes.

10. Q: How will a second DUI affect my CDL in California?

A: A second DUI conviction will likely result in a longer CDL suspension and more severe consequences.

11. Q: Is an ignition interlock device required for CDL reinstatement after a DUI?

A: Yes, you may be required to install an ignition interlock device in any vehicle you operate during your CDL suspension and beyond.

12. Q: Can I apply for a hardship CDL after a DUI in California?

A: Hardship CDLs are generally not available in California. You may only be eligible for a restricted CDL for work purposes.

13. Q: How long does a DUI stay on my driving record for CDL purposes?

A: A DUI conviction can stay on your driving record for 10 years or longer, affecting your CDL status and insurance rates.

14. Q: Can I refuse a chemical test for DUI as a CDL holder?

A: Refusing a chemical test as a CDL holder can result in an automatic one-year CDL suspension, in addition to other consequences.

15. Q: Can I get my CDL reinstated early after a DUI in California?

A: Early reinstatement is possible in some cases, but it often requires completing all required penalties and programs.

16. Q: Will I need an SR-22 filing for CDL reinstatement after a DUI?

A: Yes, an SR-22 insurance filing is typically required for CDL reinstatement, which can lead to higher insurance premiums.

17. Q: Can I still drive a personal vehicle during my CDL suspension?

A: If your personal driver's license is not suspended, you can still drive a personal vehicle. Your CDL suspension won't affect this.

18. Q: How can a DUI attorney help me with my CDL situation?

A: A DUI attorney can help you understand your rights, navigate the legal process, and potentially reduce the impact of the DUI on your CDL.

19. Q: Can I challenge the DUI arrest if I believe the traffic stop was unjustified?

A: Yes, you have the right to challenge the legality of the traffic stop and subsequent arrest with the help of legal counsel.

20. Q: Can I eventually regain full CDL privileges after a DUI in California?

A: Yes, with time, completing required programs, and demonstrating good behavior, you can regain full CDL privileges, but the process can be lengthy.

About the Author

John Campanella

I have been representing people accused of drunk driving since I began practicing in 1995. I am active member of the National College of DUI Defense, a member of California DUI Lawyers Association, I am certified by the National Highway and Traffic Association for the administration of Field Sobriety Tests. I regularly attend DUI continuing education of the Bar, have tried over 35 Jury Trials, hundreds of pretrial motions and over 1000 DMV hearings all relating to DUI cases.


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