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undefinedAlthough some DOT FMCSA serious offenses are only minor infractions in CA, it is vital to a commercial driver’s career to consult with a CA traffic attorney about these violations.

Among the many DOT FMCSA regulations commercial drivers face, those DOT FMCSA “serious offenses” are perhaps the most dangerous to a commercial driver’s career. Sure, “major offenses,” like driving under the influence, hit-and-run, and other misdemeanor or felony convictions, have dire consequences, but most drivers understand that and do not take these charges lightly.

However, some serious offenses, as designated by the FMCSA, are merely minor infractions at the state level. Too many commercial drivers will pay the small fine for a minor infraction like following too closely, an unsafe lane change, or illegal cell phone use rather than challenge it in court with a traffic attorney.

Many drivers consider it too expensive to hire an attorney to dispute a minor offense—even those the FMCSA consider a serious offense, for which a second paid fine or conviction within three years will lead to a DOT FMCSA 60-day driver disqualification.     

Understanding the charges and, more importantly, navigating the legal waters when faced with such an offense is crucial. That's where we, at our traffic ticket defense firm, can help. Our experience and knowledge in these matters ensure that commercial drivers have the best possible defense when they need it. 

What’s more, we’ll ensure you do not miss a load by handling your traffic issues while you continue to drive. 

What Are DOT FMCSA Serious Offenses?

Before diving into the consequences of a subsequent conviction, it's vital to understand what the DOT FMCSA considers a serious offense. 

Here are the DOT FMCSA serious offenses listed in 49 CFR Part 383.51, Paragraph 6.2.5Disqualification of Drivers:

  • Excessive speeding, 15 or more mph over the limit or any speeding in a construction zone.
  • Reckless driving.
  • An unsafe lane change.
  • Tailgating or following too close.
  • A fatal accident that resulted from a violation of a state law related to a traffic control device.
  • Driving your CMV without acquiring a CLP, CDL, or the required endorsement or without having those in your possession.
  • Illegal cell phone use while driving a CMV.

Some of these, such as speeding 15+ mph over the limit, a fatal accident, or reckless driving, are actions that jeopardize the driver and public safety and undoubtedly warrant the serious offense label. However, should it be a serious offense to drive without a commercial learner’s permit (CLP), commercial driver’s license (CDL), or endorsement “in the driver’s possession?” 

Another serious offense is the railroad crossing violation, although the FMCSA does not allow for a second chance with this violation. If convicted, the commercial driver will be immediately disqualified for 60 days by the FMCSA.

Understanding and placing importance on these offenses are steps toward avoiding them. However, when allegations arise, we advocate a proactive approach backed by sound legal advice.

What Are the Consequences of a Serious Offense?

As mentioned, illegal cell phone use, tailgating, no CDL or CPL in possession, and unsafe lane changes are minor infractions in CA that normally result in a $238 fine and 1.5 negligent operator treatment system (NOTS) points.

However, at the DOT FMCSA level, these serious offenses can lead to large civil fines, CSA severity points that stay on your Pre-employment Screening Program (PSP) record for three years, and a second or subsequent conviction within three years will lead to a 60 or 120-day driver disqualification.

Many fleet managers will terminate a driver convicted of a serious offense—even when it is their first offense. They’ll replace them with a driver fresh out of school to keep their fleet insurance low. 

Beyond the immediate legal consequences, there are other repercussions to consider. Your professional reputation is tarnished, leading to reduced job opportunities. If terminated, new fleets must consider your PSP. Typically, only fleets that pay low per-mile compensation, with few or no benefits, will consider hiring a driver with a serious offense within the previous three years.

Given the weight these offenses carry, we cannot stress enough the importance of having an experienced attorney assist you in disputing charges of a serious offense. 

How to Minimize or Eliminate the Consequences of an Alleged Violation

So, you've been accused of a DOT FMCSA serious offense. What now? 

First and foremost, don't panic. While the situation is undoubtedly serious, there are legal avenues available that can help minimize or even eliminate the consequences.

This is where our knowledge and experience become invaluable to the CDL holder. We thoroughly examine every detail of the alleged violation, looking for inconsistencies or procedural errors. Were all protocols followed during the traffic stop? Is there evidence that might exonerate the driver? Every detail matters, and our team leaves no stone unturned.

DOT FMCSA serious offenses are a stark reality in commercial driving. Their gravity cannot be overstated. However, there's hope with the right legal team by your side, one that understands the intricacies of these offenses. We're committed to ensuring our clients get fair representation to protect their rights and careers. If you face such a predicament, remember that we are here to assist, guide, and represent.

Contact Bigger & Harman When You Need Help with a Serious Offense in a CMV in Fresno, CA

Bigger & Harman is a traffic defense law firm that routinely practices in Fresno County Courthouse

Although Fresno is a difficult court, we vigorously combat serious offense charges from I-5 and State Route 99. 

Call us at (661) 349-9300, utilize our handy online contact form or email us

Download our e-book, Protecting Your Commercial Driver License.

Se habla Español (661) 349-9755.


The DMV Portal CA Commercial Driver Handbook.

The DOT FMCSA 49 CFR Part 383.51, Paragraph 6.2.5Disqualification of Drivers:

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