Professional License Defense

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Federal rules regarding CDL holders apply drivers in all states including the Commonwealth of Kentucky. Federal penalties for CDL holders range from 60 days to life-time disqualification without eligibility for reinstatement in 10 years. Therefore, it is important to contact an attorney if you have been cited in a moving- or traffic-related violation and you have a CDL or Commercial Learner’s Permit (CLP). 


Speeding or Traffic Tickets are the most common citations for drivers in general, and carry enhanced consequences to the CDL holder’s licensure. Penalties can either be disqualification for 60 days or for 120 days, depending on whether the ticket was a 2nd offense within 3 years or a 3rd or subsequent offense within 3 years. These penalties are the same regardless of whether the CDL holder was operating a Commercial Motor Vehicle (CMV) or a personal/non-CMV. 


Serious speeding or traffic offenses that carry these penalties include:

  • Driving 15mph or more above the posted speed limit
  • Reckless driving under state/commonwealth law
  • Improper or erratic lane changes
  • Following too closely
  • Violating any state or local traffic law arising in connection with a fatal accident 


Other violations while driving a CMV only pertain to railroad crossing laws and placarded hazardous materials (hazmat) vehicles. 


More serious is any violation in connection with driving under the influence (DUI) of alcohol or controlled substances. Convictions for these infractions may result in suspension of the CDL for between 1 year and life depending on whether it is a first offense or a second or subsequent offense, no matter how attenuated in time. For placarded hazmat vehicles, the penalties begin at a minimum of 3 years’s suspension. These penalties are the same regardless of whether the CDL holder was operating a Commercial Motor Vehicle (CMV) or a personal/non-CMV.


DUI alcohol or controlled substance offenses carrying these penalties include: 

  • Blood alcohol content (BAC) of greater than .04 (not applicable to those individuals driving a personal/non-CMV)
  • Conviction or refusal to submit to testing for DUI alcohol under state law or federally controlled/scheduled substance 


Convictions for other moving violations can result in a 1-year suspension, or either a life-suspension or lifetime suspension without eligibility for 10-year reinstatement. Penalties vary depending on the offense or whether the conviction represents a second or subsequent offense no matter how attenuated in time. These penalties are the same regardless of whether the CDL holder was operating a Commercial Motor Vehicle (CMV) or a personal/non-CMV.


Moving violations convictions carrying these penalties include:

  • Leaving the scene of an accident
  • Using the vehicle to commit any felony, which may include more serious penalties for trafficking in or distributing controlled substances or human trafficking


Kentucky prohibitions and penalties for CDL holders include all federal prohibitions and penalties. If the penalty is more serious according to Kentucky law, then the more serious penalty applies. Infractions occurring in a personal/non-CMV are in large majority dealt with under the federal rules. 


Most penalties are connected to serious traffic violations, which include:

  • Speeding 15 mph or more over the posted speed limit
  • Improper lane usage or lane changes
  • Following too closely
  • Reckless driving
  • Any other wanton act that shows a total disregard of any person or property


Penalties may range from a $50 fine (school bus driver uses a cell phone in violation of KRS §281A.205) to disqualification for life, including disqualification in increments 60 days, 120 days, 180 days, 6 months, 1 year, and 3 years. There are no penalties for a first offense of a serious traffic violation. The following infractions incur a penalty:

  • Second or subsequent serious traffic violation committed in a CMV arising from separate incidents within a three-year period
  • Railroad crossing violation listed in §§ 189.500, 189.560, and 189.565
  • Fraud offenses involving driver’s licenses
  • Second or subsequent offense for improper use of a cell phone by a school bus driver 
  • Violating out-of-service order while either transporting placarded hazardous materials or operating a CMV designed to transport 16 or more passengers including the driver 
  • DUI alcohol or scheduled substance or any BAC of .04 or greater
  • Leaving the scene of an accident involving a vehicle driven by a person who holds or is required to hold a CDL
  • Using a motor vehicle in commission of an enumerated felony, with higher penalties if using that vehicle in commission of trafficking in controlled substances
  • Causing a fatality through negligent or criminal operation of a CMV
  • Any listed violations while transporting a placarded hazardous material, or one required to be placarded


It is important to remember that any penalties will be imposed following a determination of guilt on the offense itself. The stakes are high for CDL holders. Speaking with an attorney is an important step in mitigating potential penalties. 

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