Reckless Plea Saves Drunk Driving Client’s CDL and Job

by baronedefensefirm on August 19, 2009

This case involved a client with a CDL (commercial driver’s license) charged with OWI (operating while intoxicated) in Michigan.  Due to a 2005 change in Michigan’s drunk driving laws, a conviction to drunk driving (including both OWI and OWVI) would result in a one-year suspension of the driver’s CDL.  This suspension occurs even if the drunk driving did not involve a commercial vehicle.

In this case we were able to obtain a reduction from drunk driving to reckless driving, saving the client his CDL and his job.

Here is a summary of the case:

Case: People vs. D.W.

Charge: OWI (Operating While Intoxicated)

Prior record: None

In this case the police were responding to a two-vehicle injury accident.  A witness at the scene of the accident said “He (our client) hit the curb right before he smashed inot the car, I knew he was drunk, he was swerving while driving.”  The accident occurred on November 27, 2008, and according to a recorded statement of the arresting officer this is traditionally the “busiest bar night of the year.”

The client admitted drinking “at a friend’s house” and had all the usual signs of intoxication.  This included an inability to state the alphabet, stand on one leg.  During the one leg stand the officer had to catch him to keep him from falling down.  His PBT results were .12.  The client was arrested.

At the station he blew a pair of .13s, i.e., the DataMaster breath test evidence ticket indicated that two samples of client’s breath were tested and registered .13 each time.  This amount is more than 50% above the legal limit.

Our review of the case suggested that there were no viable legal issues.  We referred the client to alcohol treatment at Henry Ford and set the case for trial.  After at least 12 court appearances over about a 9 month period the case was finally set for a non-jury trial.

On the date of the trial, with all parties present, we negotiated with the prosecutor and the arresting officer, and ultimately persuaded them to offer a reduced plea to a reckless driving.  Our client agreed to such reduction.

In many instances a reduction from drunk driving to reckless driving in Michigan would not be helpful to the client because the penalty for a reckless driving is greater than for the more typical reduction to operating while visibly impaired (OWVI).  This is because a reckless driving carries with it a 90 day hard suspension of the driver license and 6 pts on the driving record.

However, for a CDL holder, there is a significant benefit in that the suspension is for “only” 90 days rather than the full year as it would otherwise be with the more typical reduction to the impaired driving.

There is some confusion as to whether or not a reckless driving also triggers the one year CDL suspension, and it would IF the offense was committed while driving a commercial vehicle.  Here the offense involved a non-commercial vehicle.  Here is the relevant statutory information:

This is from the Oct 1 2005 amended statue analysis

“In addition, pursuant to 319d(c) (vii) a 6-point violation outlined in 257.320a also will be a 1 year suspension for a CDL. Specifically, Section 320a (e) lists operating a motor vehicle in violation of section 626. Section 626 is commonly known as “Reckless Driving”. Therefore, conviction of a reckless driving, while operating a commercial vehicle, will cause a 1-year suspension of the CDL. However, and important to the matter at hand, a conviction for “reckless driving” while operating a non-commercial vehicle will not suspend a CDL for 1-year but only be a 90-day hard suspension in accordance with the statute and secretary of state guidelines. “

If you are a CDL holder facing a possible drunk driving conviction in Michigan, call us today to learn how we may be able to save your CDL.  As with the stock market “past performance is no guarantee of future success” but we’ve helped other CDL holders and we just may be able to help you as well!


This post was written by...

– who has written 203 posts on Michigan DUI and License Restoration Lawyers.

Patrick T. Barone is the author on two books on DUI defense including the well respected two volume treatise Defending Drinking Drivers (James Publishing), and The DUI Book – A Citizen’s Guide to Understanding DUI Litigation in America. He is also the author of a monthly DUI defense column for the Criminal Defense Newsletter, published by Michigan’s State Appellate Defender’s Office. Mr. Barone is an adjunct professor at the Thomas M. Cooley Law School where he teaches Drunk Driving Law and Practice. He is also on the faculty of the Criminal Defense Attorney’s of Michigan’s Trial Lawyer’s College where he provides trial skills training to Michigan’s criminal defense practitioners. Mr. Barone lectures nationally on various DUI defense topics, and he has appeared in newspapers, on television and on radio as a drunk driving defense expert. Mr. Barone has been certified as an instructor and practitioner of the Standardized Field Sobriety Tests and has also attended a 24-hour certification course at National Patent Analytical Corporation (the manufacturer of the DataMaster) and has thereby been deemed competent by the manufacturer to operate, perform essential diagnostic verifications and calibration checks on the DataMaster. Mr. Barone is a Sustaining Member of College for DUI Defense. Mr. Barone is the principal and founding member of The Barone Defense Firm, whose practice is limited exclusively to defending drinking drivers. The Firm is headquartered in Birmingham, Michigan.

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