All motorists who operate vehicles on U.S. roadways are expected to comply with basic safety rules and regulations. This includes rules prohibiting driving while under the influence of drugs or alcohol. While rules against drunk driving apply to all motorists, the rules are especially strict when it comes to operators of certain vehicle
In fact, commercial drivers who are considered common carriers could face federal criminal charges if they are intoxicated by either alcohol or drugs at the time when they are operating their vehicles.
Federal charges can be far more serious than state charges, so defendants who are accused of a federal crime need to ensure they respond in an appropriate way to fight against the accusations made against them.
LV Criminal Defense can provide legal help in circumstances where a common carrier has been accused of driving while impaired by drugs or alcohol. When your ability to drive and your freedom are at risk due to serious accusations being made against you, we can help.
Give us a call today to learn more about how a federal criminal defense lawyer at our firm can represent you. We help clients in Arizona, California, Utah, Nevada and surrounding states and we have experience with both defending clients in federal court and negotiating favorable plea agreements. Call now to learn more.
Nick Wooldridge has a long track record of representing clients accused of serious federal and state crimes in Nevada.
Federal laws making it a crime for common carriers to operate under the influence of drugs or alcohol are found in 18 U.S. Code Chapter 17A. There are three different statutes within this chapter of the U.S. code. 18 U.S. Code section 341 is the statute that defines all of the key words used within the chapter. 18 U.S. Code section 342 explains the actual offense of operating under the influence of drugs or alcohol as a common carrier. Finally, 18 U.S. Code section 343 explains the circumstances under which certain facts are presumed to be true.
Under 18 U.S. Code section 341, the key term that is defined is common carrier. This definition is essential to know because it explains exactly who the entire chapter applies to.
According to the relevant law, a common carrier for purposes of Title 18 Chapter 17A is a locomotive, a rail carrier, or a sleeping car. A common carrier could also include a bus that transports passengers in interstate commerce, which is any bus traveling on federal roads or across state lines. Finally, common carrier is defined to include both air and water common carriers.
Because the term common carrier is defined broadly, anyone who transports passengers on buses that are part of interstate commerce, trains or railroads, aircrafts or water crafts could potentially face federal criminal charges for driving while under the influence of drugs or alcohol.
The circumstances under which an operator of a common carrier can be charged for driving while impaired are established in 18 U.S. Code section 342. According to this statute, anyone who operates a common carrier under the influence of alcohol or a controlled substance can be charged with a federal offense. Anyone who directs the operation of a common carrier while under the influence can also be charged. Those who are found guilty of a violation of 18 U.S. Code section 342 could face a maximum of 15 years of imprisonment.
A controlled substance for purposes of this statute is any substance included in section 102 of the federal Controlled Substances Act. Common narcotics and recreational drugs are all included within section 102.
Finally, 18 U.S. code section 343 establishes the presumptions that apply in circumstances where an operator of a common carrier is accused of operating under the influence of alcohol or drugs.
According to the relevant statute, any individual who has a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of .10 or more is presumed to be under the influence of alcohol. Any individual who has a sufficient quantity of drugs in his system such that the quantity of drugs would be expected to impair perception, mental processes, or motor functions of the average person can be presumed to be under the influence of drugs.
When there is a presumption that an operator of a common carrier is under the influence of drugs or alcohol on the basis of the level of drugs in his system or on the basis of the amount of alcohol in his system, the prosecutor does not have to specifically present other evidence in order to prove that the operator of the rail, bus, or other vehicle was unlawfully impaired.
The presumption exists as long as the jury believes the evidence showing the elevated BAC or elevated level of drugs. It would be up to the defendant to rebut the presumption in order to avoid being found guilty.
Defendants may have a number of options to fight charges under Chapter 17A. A defendant can attempt to suppress evidence of his BAC or of the content of drugs in his blood if an unlawful search was conducted in violation of the defendant’s constitutional rights.
Defendants can also present evidence suggesting problems with the BAC or drug testing to cast doubt on whether the tests actually showed an unlawful level of intoxication. Since the prosecutor must prove the defendant violated the law, if evidence is inadmissible or viewed as problematic, the defendant should be acquitted.
LV Criminal Defense has provided representation to operators of common carriers who have been accused of violating the provisions of Chapter 17A in connection with operating while intoxicated or impaired by drugs. We know how to help you evaluate the case against you, determine an appropriate course of action for responding to charges, and fight in court or negotiate a plea agreement.
If you live in Arizona, Utah, Nevada, California or surrounding states and you have been accused of violating the laws in Chapter 17A or of violating any federal laws, give us a call today.