The most frequent commercial motor vehicle (CMV) serious offenses that lead to a driver’s disqualification are following too closely, illegal cell phone use, and an unsafe lane change.
The DOT FMCSA Driver Disqualification Rules
The DOT uses FMCSA CFR 49 Part 383.51, Driver Disqualifications, to define what offenses are considered “serious offenses” or “major disqualifying offenses.” Although both sound intimidating, a serious offense is not as severe as a major disqualifying offense.
When a driver is convicted of a CMV serious offense the first time, they will be fined by the traffic court judge and the DMV will assess 1.5 negligent operator treatment system (NOTS) points, and the DOT FMCSA will assess the Compliance, Safety, and Accountability (CSA) severity points for the conviction. A civil fine is also possible for the driver of up to $2,750 and the trucking firm up to $11,000 although they are rarely issued.
However, a second conviction within three years of the first will lead to a 60-day driver’s disqualification, a third conviction is 120-days, and a one-year driver’s disqualification for any subsequent conviction within three years of the first.
The Most Frequent CMV Serious Offenses
A following too closely ticket is one of the most frequent CMV serious offenses in CA that leads to a driver’s disqualification. All too often, the law enforcement officer (LEO) does not have a good view of the road and tickets the largest vehicle for an infraction they could not prevent. When a vehicle swings back in too quickly after passing the truck, the driver might not have time to slow down that 80,000-pound truck before the LEO sees it and pulls the driver over for following too closely.
Likewise, many drivers think it is futile to dispute the ticket in traffic court because the judge will agree with the LEO and pay for the traffic attorney, the fine, the court costs, and then pay again when it gets to DOT FMCSA. This is often not the case when you hire a traffic attorney with courtroom experience.
A knowledgeable attorney knows they must raise the level of “reasonable doubt,”—even in traffic court, that is the standard of guilt, and the state bears the “burden of proof.” Therefore, the attorney only needs to show the judge that you had a better perspective of the road than the LEO, who might not have had “a bird’s eye view” that a trucker would have high above the road.
The second most frequent is the illegal cell phone use ticket. These might also be “subjective,” depending on the viewpoint. Suppose you are pulling into the weigh station, your cell phone is resting on top of your shipping documents, you pick it up to get your folder ready for inspection, and the CHP inside see you pick up the phone on the monitor. They could issue you a ticket for illegal cell phone use, but were you using the phone? Some would say right off that it doesn’t matter, but it does.
CA Vehicle Code (CVC) Section 23123.5, Driving Offenses, warns drivers, “A person shall not drive a motor vehicle while holding and operating a handheld wireless telephone…” Therefore, some LEOs believe merely holding the handheld device makes them in violation of the code. However, the traffic code states explicitly, “…while holding and operating…”
Surely, the driver was holding the device but had no intention of operating it in this instance. That could be verified easily by getting a copy of the video. However, many laypeople or non-lawyers have failed trying to persuade the judge. When you hire a traffic attorney to represent you in a cell phone case, the judge will give that more gravity. Plus, the traffic attorney that spends time in traffic court knows how to word an objection should the CHP officer raise one.
The third most frequent CMV serious offense that could lead to a driver’s disqualification for a second conviction is the unsafe lane change. An unsafe lane change comprises the driver who changed lanes before it is safe to do so or warned other drivers of their intent by signaling for a continuous 100 feet.
How many times have you had to change lanes suddenly because of another driver’s inattention or risky maneuvers? Most experienced traffic attorneys would ask the LEO that very question. From their viewpoint, much higher than most drivers, a trucker can see what is on the road ahead and which vehicle driver might be driving distracted. Not all lane changes are unsafe, even when they do not meet the objective of the law laid out in CVC 22107 & 22108, Turning and Stopping and Turning Signals.
Other CMV Serious Offences That Could Lead to a Driver’s Disqualification
Although speeding is the most frequent ticket issued in CA and across the USA, few drivers get cited for “excessive speeding,” which CVC Section 22406.1, Other Speed Laws, sees as a misdemeanor crime. Driving 15 mph or more over the 55 mph statewide speed limit for most CMVs is excessive speeding to the DOT FMCSA and a serious offense.
In addition to those mentioned above, these violations are also serious offenses:
- Reckless driving.
- A violation of state traffic control devices such as red lights that leads to a fatal accident.
- Operating without a commercial learner’s permit or commercial driver’s license (CDL)—your CDL or CLP must be in your possession while driving.
- Operating without the correct vehicle endorsement.
When you are ticketed for any of these serious or major offenses, you need a CA traffic attorney with courtroom experience—even attorneys in other areas of law hire a traffic attorney to resolve their tickets. Waiting to hire an attorney to dispute a second conviction might be too late. Challenge the first, then the odds of getting a second conviction are reduced tremendously.
Consult Bigger & Harman When You Have a CMV Serious Offense That Needs to Be Resolved in Woodland, CA Traffic Court
Contact the office of Bigger & Harman, by phone (661) 349-9300. Se habla Español (661) 349-9755.
We offer CMV drivers an initial consultation completely free and without obligation. What’s more, we use a flat fee so that you will always know how much it is, and there will be no hidden fees or hours charged for court appearances to resolve your ticket.
The 2019-2021 CA Commercial Driver Handbook.pdf
The FMCSA CFR 49 Part 383.51, Driver Disqualifications