Few things are more annoying than getting a traffic ticket here in Georgia. Unlike in other states however, Georgia has made traffic violation misdemeanor crimes in Georgia, with penalties up to and including jail time and high fines. For most, there is a risk of further cost with increased insurance rates.
However, there is one group that can risk much more than just a hike in their insurance. CDL drivers can lose their ability to drive Commercial Vehicles after as little as one violation here in Georgia. According to the Georgia Department of Driver Services traffic citations are classified in three different categories, Serious, Major and Felony violations.
Serious Violations- Any person is disqualified from driving a commercial motor vehicle for a conviction of a serious traffic violation as defined in O.C.G.A. §40-5-142(22) as noted below.
- Not less than sixty (60) days if convicted of two serious traffic violations arising from separate incidents occurring within a three (3) year period as measured from the dates of arrests for which convictions were obtained.
- Not less than 120 days if convicted of a third or subsequent serious traffic violation arising from separate incidents occurring within a three (3) year period as measured form the dates of arrests for which convictions were obtained.
O.C.G.A. §40-5-145(22) defines Serious Violations as:
(A) Speeding 15 or more miles per hour above the posted speed limit;
(B) Reckless driving;
(C) Following another vehicle too closely;
(D) Improper or erratic lane change, including failure to signal a lane change;
(E) A violation, arising in connection with a fatal crash, of state law or a local ordinance, relating to motor vehicle traffic control, excluding parking, weight, length, height, and vehicle defect violations, and excluding homicide by vehicle as defined in Code Section 40-6-393;
(F) A railroad grade crossing violation in a noncommercial motor vehicle;
(G) Driving a commercial motor vehicle without obtaining a commercial driver's license;
(H) Driving a commercial motor vehicle without a commercial driver's license in the driver's immediate possession, and excluding such violations when the person's commercial driver's license or commercial driving privilege is suspended, revoked, canceled, or disqualified; or
(I) Driving a commercial motor vehicle without a commercial driver's license of the proper class and endorsements for the specific vehicle being operated or for the passengers or type of cargo transported.
Major Violations- Any person is disqualified from driving a commercial motor vehicle for a conviction of a major traffic violation as defined in O.C.G.A. §40-5-142(18.2) as noted below.
- First conviction – one (1) year.
- Second or subsequent conviction – lifetime.
O.C.G.A. §40-5-142(18.2) defines Major Violations as:
(A) Driving a vehicle under the influence in violation of Code Section 40-6-391;
(B) Hit and run or leaving the scene of an accident in violation of Code Section 40-6-270, failure to report striking an unattended vehicle in violation of Code Section 40-6-271, failure to report striking a fixed object in violation of Code Section 40-6-272, or failure to report an accident in violation of Code Section 40-6-273;
(C) Except as provided in subsection (b) of Code Section 40-5-151, any felony in the commission of which a motor vehicle is used;
(D) Driving a commercial motor vehicle while the person's commercial driver's license or commercial driving privilege is revoked, suspended, canceled, or disqualified;
(E) Homicide by vehicle in violation of Code Section 40-6-393;
(F) Racing on highways or streets in violation of Code Section 40-6-186;
(G) Using a motor vehicle in fleeing or attempting to elude an officer in violation of Code Section 40-6-395;
(H) Fraudulent or fictitious use of or application for a license as provided in Code Section 40-5-120 or 40-5-125;
(I) Operating a motor vehicle with a revoked, canceled, or suspended registration in violation of Code Section 40-6-15;
(J) Violating Code Sections 16-8-2 through 16-8-9, if the property that was the subject of the theft was a vehicle engaged in commercial transportation of cargo or any appurtenance thereto or the cargo being transported therein or thereon, as set forth in paragraph (8) of subsection (a) of Code Section 16-8-12; or
(K) Refusing to submit to a state administered chemical test requested by a law enforcement officer pursuant to Code Section 40-5-55.
Felony Violations- Any person is disqualified from driving a commercial motor vehicle for life who knowingly uses a motor vehicle in the commission of any felony involving the manufacture, distribution, cultivation, sale, transfer of, trafficking, or dispensing of a controlled substance or marijuana, or possession with intent to manufacture, distribute, cultivate, sell, transfer, traffic in, or dispense a controlled substance or marijuana.
While operating a commercial motor vehicle on any highway of this state, no individual shall:
(1) Use more than a single button on a wireless telecommunications device to initiate or terminate a voice communication; or
(2) Reach for a wireless telecommunications device or stand-alone electronic device in such a manner that requires the driver to no longer be:
(A) In a seated driving position; or
(B) Properly restrained by a safety belt
Per Georgia's Department of Driver Services website, the above violations carry the following penalties:
1st conviction – 1 point and $50.00 fine
2nd conviction – 2 points and $100.00 fine
3rd or more convictions – 3 points and $150.00 fine
While the fines may not scare CDL driver in comparison to fines for other violations, the assessment of up to 3 points should be very concerning. Even if the violation is not listed as a major or serious violation, the assessment of points will surely affect CDL drivers ability to gain employment and insurance coverage.
Brandon Rosenbloom is a former state prosecutor who uses that experience to protect the rights of individuals facing the criminal justice system.