The people who drive for a living help to keep our state prosperous. Without our truckers, bus drivers, cabbies, delivery drivers, and couriers, California would swiftly grind to a halt. Thus, California makes the law against driving under the influence more rigorous for commercial drivers than for the rest of us. Legislation sponsored in 2016 by San Luis Obispo Assemblyman Katcho Achadjian – and signed into law by Governor Brown – now holds Uber and Lyft drivers to the same DUI standards as all other commercial drivers in California.

Assembly Bill 2687 will go into effect on July 1, 2018. Currently, the legal limit for rideshare drivers is the same as the legal limit for “civilian” drivers, which is a blood alcohol content (BAC) level of 0.08 percent. The new statute will align Uber and Lyft drivers with all other commercial drivers in our state. The legal BAC limit for commercial drivers in California is 0.04 percent.

In a press release, Assemblyman Achadjian’s office said that the proposal is a response to a DUI case involving a rideshare driver in San Luis Obispo County in 2015. San Luis Obispo County District attorney Dan Dow said in a statement, “Passengers who hire a professional driver, whether a taxicab or an Uber service, should feel that they are as safe as possible when riding as a passenger with that driver.”

WHAT OTHER NEW LEGISLATION IMPACTS LYFT AND UBER?

Lyft and Uber drivers are also now subject to stricter background checks. Concerns about safety continue to plague both companies. In 2016, Uber agreed to settle a lawsuit brought by the district attorneys of San Francisco and Los Angeles accusing the company of misleading passengers about the thoroughness of its background checks. Under new legislation that took effect on January 1st, ridesharing companies cannot employ a driver who is a registered sex offender, a driver with a violent felony conviction, or a driver with a driving under the influence conviction in the last seven years.

Rideshare companies that operate in California will now face fines of up to $5,000 if they are found to be in violation of the new hiring and background check legislation. In response to the new law, Lyft issued a statement that said, “We appreciate the combined efforts of Governor Brown and the legislature to create an environment that allows (ride-hailing companies) like Lyft to grow and thrive in California.”

California law defines a commercial driver as someone who holds a commercial driver’s license that authorizes the operation of commercial vehicles. This includes any driver who carries a class A or class B driver’s license or a class C license that authorizes carrying hazardous materials. Several California DUI laws directly impact commercial drivers. For example, a commercial driver may not refuse to take a chemical DUI (blood, breath, or urine) test if requested by a law enforcement officer. Enhanced penalties are enforced in California for commercial drivers who operate negligently or violate some other traffic law while driving under the influence.

WHAT HAPPENS WHEN A COMMERCIAL DRIVER IS CONVICTED OF DUI?

In California, if a commercial driver is convicted of driving under the influence, he or she will face basically the same penalties as anyone else – except for what happens to the driver’s license. Someone with a commercial license who is convicted of DUI for the first time will not be allowed to drive commercially for one year, and if the violation occurred while transporting hazardous materials, the license suspension period is for three years. If a commercial driver is convicted a second time for DUI – while driving any vehicle – the offender will be disqualified for life from commercial driving, but in some cases the penalty may later be reduced to ten years.

If you have a commercial driver’s license in this state, it is probably for your job, so you cannot afford to be convicted of driving under the influence. Your work is too important to risk a DUI conviction. That is why, if you drive commercially and you face a DUI charge in Southern California – now or in the future – you will need the help of an experienced Orange County DUI defense attorney.

A good DUI attorney tries to find an inconsistency or flaw in the state’s case against you, negotiates to dismiss or reduce the charge, and works to bring your case to its best possible resolution. If your case goes to trial, a good DUI lawyer will determine if there was any discrepancy in the breath or blood tests; interrogate the arresting officers to find any inconsistency in their testimony; and present other evidence on your behalf.

HOW DOES A DUI-RELATED LICENSE SUSPENSION WORK?

Typically during a California DUI arrest, the arresting officer will confiscate a suspect’s driver’s license and give that person an Order of Suspension. If the suspect does not receive an Order of Suspension from the officer, he or she should receive one through the mail along with a 30-day temporary license. The license suspension begins when the temporary license expires. If you are arrested for DUI in this state and a police officer does not seize your driver’s license, you will have to mail it or take it to the nearest California DMV office.

The website “Who’s Driving You?” lists 45 incidents involving Uber and Lyft drivers in the category “Driver DUIs and Other Offenses.” After the 2016 DUI arrest of an Uber driver in San Diego, the company told KTLA-5 News, ““We have a zero tolerance policy for using or being under the influence of alcohol or drugs while driving on the Uber platform.”

Californians who use Uber and Lyft can now ride with confidence knowing that their drivers have passed comprehensive background checks. If you’ve had a drink or two, Uber and Lyft are now two of your better alternatives. Driving under the influence is treated seriously in this state, and you cannot expect leniency even for a first offense. An experienced Orange County DUI defense attorney can help if you are charged with driving under the influence in Southern California, but it’s far better to avoid DUI trouble altogether – and an accident or a fatality – by utilizing Uber, Lyft, a taxi or limo service, or by designating a driver who’s sober.