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Are Hazardous Material Trucking Violations a Misdemeanor in California?

undefinedAlthough there are more than 350 hazardous material trucking violations in California, some are infractions, not misdemeanors. However, whether a misdemeanor or an infraction, all commercial driver’s license (CDL) holders in Kern County should consult a Bakersfield, CA, traffic attorney before making a statement to law enforcement officers (LEO) or court officials.

The Difference Between an Infraction & a Misdemeanor Hazardous Material Trucking Violation

Misdemeanor crimes are harsher than infractions but less extreme than felonies. The most notable difference between an infraction and a misdemeanor is jail time, but an infraction is often also considered to not count against your criminal record like a misdemeanor would. In CA, infractions do not require jail time.

“A misdemeanor is a type of offense punishable under criminal law. A misdemeanor is typically a crime punishable by less than 12 months in jail. Community service, probation, fines, and imprisonment for less than a year are commonly issued punishments for misdemeanors. More grievous crimes, felonies, carry stiffer penalties, including jail time of more than 12 months.” — Cornell Law School Legal Information Institute (LII).

Why Are There So Many Hazardous Material Trucking Violations?

Two words—Public Safety.

If you haul hazmat regularly, it would be advisable to read our blog spot, How to Avoid a Misdemeanor Record for a HazMat Violation in Kern CountyYou will likely discover some precious information there.

With fines of as much as $4,175 and three negligent operator treatment system (NOTS) points at stake, it could be beneficial.

Many hazardous material trucking violations are due to improper handling or failure to secure the containers inside the truck.

Every hazardous material handler should be familiar with CA Vehicle Code (CVC) Sections 31600 through 31620, and those who haul explosives should read and digest CVC Section 31602 (a-c)Transportation of Explosives.  

Did you know that the CHP controls where a hazardous material placated truck can stop for coffee or inspect its cargo? It’s true. What’s more, if you don’t have a CHP-approved map of your route, you could be guilty of a misdemeanor crime.

CVC Section 31602 (c) states, “It is a misdemeanor for the driver of any vehicle transporting explosives to stop at any place not designated as a safe stopping place unless the vehicle is disabled…”

It’s also a misdemeanor not to have your commercial driver’s license (CDL) and hazardous material endorsement on you or in your vehicle while hauling hazmat. It’s also a DOT FMCSA “serious offense.” A serious offense, according to the FMCSA CFR 49 Part 383.51Driver Disqualifications, requires a sixty-day driver disqualification with a 2nd conviction within 36 months after receiving a first for driving without a CDL in possession.

Granted, many CA Superior Court judges consider these as wobblers. A “wobbler” is a violation that could be either an infraction or a misdemeanor.  Most judges really don’t want to convict a driver of a misdemeanor for doing their job.

Though they understandably want to prevent reckless or irresponsible behavior when handling explosives and other hazardous material, what’s the actual harm in forgetting to carry your CDL with you? Many judges consider a heavy fine a learning experience for the young novice driver. 

Likewise, the driver who goes to court without an experienced traffic attorney might appear to the judge as not respecting the severity of the situation. Any driver accused of a hazardous material trucking violation should consult with and hire a traffic attorney to represent them in court, regardless of whether the charge is a misdemeanor or infraction. 

Contact the Law Office of Bigger & Harman to Resolve Your Hazardous Material Trucking Violation in Kern County, CA 

Call Bigger & Harman at (661) 349-9300, email attorney@biggerharmanlaw.com, or use our contact form to set up a free, no-obligation consolation to discuss your situation.

As a traffic defense team, we have been officially entrusted with more than 20,000 tickets (a significant percentage were misdemeanors) to defend in Superior Court. Truckers and other CDL holders frequently get a bad rap. We provide the defense they need. Although there are no guarantees, we will give you a straightforward recommendation about your chances. 

“Client Satisfaction Is Our #1 Priority!”

Se habla Español (661) 349-9755.

References:

The DMV Portal CA Commercial Driver Handbook Copyright 2022.

The FMCSA CFR 49 Part 383.51Driver Disqualifications

CVC Section 31602 (a-c)Transportation of Explosives.