Commercial Drivers License and DWI / DUI in MN

In April of 2016, the U.S. Supreme Court upheld Minnesota’s law pertaining to breath tests for suspected drunk drivers. For those with a commercial driver’s license, this means you can be forced to submit to a breath test or forfeit your license for a period of one year for refusing to do so.


Any commercial truck driver who is arrested for DWI in Minnesota is eligible for a temporary license. This is problematic since most CDL holders make their living driving a truck. A one-year suspension can mean you will not have a job when you regain your right to drive. Keep in mind, while non-commercial drivers are subject to charges if their BAC is .08, under Minnesota statutes, a CDL holder cannot have a level exceeding .04. Even if your BAC is under .04, you can still face a suspension of your right to drive if you have “any detectable amount” of alcohol in your blood.


During 2015, there were nearly 6,000 arrests for DWI in Hennepin County. During that time, prosecutors were successful in gaining convictions for 66 percent of all charged. This shows the importance of working closely with a criminal defense attorney. Because an arrest for DWI if you’re a CDL holder could mean your livelihood, it’s even more important.


Currently, Minnesota uses the DataMaster DMT for testing of your breath after an arrest for DWI. However, like all breathalyzer equipment, they do not always provide a perfect result. There are numerous factors which can have an impact on the results including:

  • Maintenance and training – the officer administering the breathalyzer test must be properly trained. In addition, the equipment must be properly maintained so as to not give false readings.
  • Breath temperature – you might be surprised to learn that if your breath temperature is above 93 degrees you could get a false reading. This means even a cup of hot coffee consumed within the last 30 minutes could give a bad reading.
  • Medication factors – if you are asthmatic, diabetic or you are treating a cold with over-the-counter remedies, a breath test could give a false reading. It will be important for you to discuss these factors with your criminal defense attorney.
  • Diet plays a role – in some cases, a high carbohydrate diet could also result in a false high reading. Driver who suffer from gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) are also likely to have a high blood alcohol reading from this machine.


You may think your best bet is paying the fine for a DWI and accepting the penalties. This is not a good option in most cases; remember, a DWI conviction (or guilty plea) could mar your driving record permanently. Your attorney  can work with you to determine what facts the prosecutor has and help you decide the best way to proceed; it’s never a good idea to plead out without first discussing all your options with your attorney.


Keep in mind, even if you are convicted or plead out, it may be possible to file a civil appeal with the Commission of Public Safety to have your CDL restored. This generally will only apply if this is your first offense; additional offenses could prevent any restoration of your CDL.

If you’re a commercial driver and you’ve been cited for a DWI in the Minneapolis area, don’t take any chances. Minnesota treats DWI for CDL holders far differently than those with a regular driver’s license; remember, even if you are stopped in your personal vehicle, it could have an impact on your CDL. Make sure to avoid saying anything to law enforcement officers that could have a negative impact on your case; contact Speas Law Firm, P.A. as soon as possible after your arrest and let us help you determine the best way to move forward and attempt to preserve your CDL.

Source of arrests: on page 13

Source of convictions:  found under DWI Conviction Rates across Minnesota Counties