As a St. Louis semi truck accident lawyer, I believe most people would agree that a drunk commercial truck driver doesn’t belong on the road. So I was surprised to see a Missouri Supreme Court ruling in which a commercial license holder claimed laws penalizing him for a drunk-driving conviction were unconstitutional. In Bone v. Director of Revenue, Robert Brian Bone challenged the suspension of his commercial license for one year after his DWI. Among other arguments, he claimed the Missouri statute at issue was unconstitutional under the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling in National Federation of Independent Business v. Seibelus, which invalidated one part of the president’s health care law but largely upheld it. The Missouri Supreme Court reversed, finding the ruling at issue barred federal laws, but not state laws like the one applied to Bone.
Bone was pulled over for weaving, and subjected to a blood-alcohol concentration test that put his BAC at 0.92. His commercial driver’s license was suspended, and he was disqualified from driving a commercial vehicle under a Missouri state law that requires suspension for an “alcohol-related enforcement contact.” After an administrative hearing, Bone petitioned for a trial, arguing that the various statutes applied to him deprive him of his constitutionally protected right to due process, notice and hearing, and equal protection. During his case, the Supreme Court handed down NFIB, which held in relevant part that the Medicaid expansion of the Affordable Care Act impermissibly coerced states into accepting its terms. Bone then argued that the NFIB ruling invalidated Missouri’s CDL statutes, because they were passed after the federal government conditioned highway funding on such laws. The trial court ultimately agreed that the NFIB ruling made it unconstitutional to suspend Bone’s CDL.
The Missouri Supreme Court ruled that Bone’s arguments were timely, but wrong. In NFIB, the high court held that it is a violation of the Constitution’s Spending Clause for Congress to require the states to expand Medicaid by threatening to terminate other, independent financial grants. Here, however, Bone argued that Missouri state laws are unconstitutional because they were federally coerced. Bone did not challenge the federal law that conditioned highway funding on changes to the CDL laws, the Missouri high court said. The Spending Clause concerns the power of Congress to tax and spend, the court noted; no state law is related and no state law was at issue in NFIB. The Missouri Supreme Court went on to enter judgment against Bone’s other constitutional claims, none of which it felt had merit. It unanimously reversed the trial court.
As a Missouri tractor-trailer accident attorney, I’m pleased to see this case for several reasons. First and foremost, I believe the rule revoking commercial driver’s license eligibility after a DUI makes us safer, and invalidating it would have made us less safe. A commercial truck can do deadly damage in a crash with a passenger car. Removing safeguards that prevent habitual drinkers or drug users from operating them therefore increases the chance of a catastrophic crash. If the trial court’s decision had stood, it could also have invalidated all of the laws on which highway funding was conditioned, including many drunk-driving and speed-limit laws that I, a southern Illinois big rig accident lawyer, believe make all of us safer.
If your family has suffered a serious injury or a loss because of a truck driver’s carelessness, don’t wait to call Carey, Danis & Lowe for a free consultation. You can send us an email or call 1-877-678-3400 today.
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