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Navigating the fine line between reducing traffic violations for Commerical Drivers License Holders and Masking

A Georgia police officer partially removing a Guy Fawkes mask revealing their face beneath The scene is set in an urban environment with a recogniza copy-min Understanding Masking in CDL Traffic Violations

It is crucial to differentiate between what constitutes "masking" and what is a legitimate legal process based on evidentiary reasons. Failure to properly understand the difference between the two can lead to serious legal consequences.

The Concept of Masking

Under 49 C.F.R. § 384.226, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) explicitly prohibits states from masking, deferring, or allowing diversion programs that prevent CDL holders' convictions for traffic violations from appearing on their driving records. This regulation ensures transparency and maintains the integrity of CDL holders' driving records across states. "Generally, masking as contemplated by 49 CFR 384.226, requires adjudication or, at least, a factual finding of guilt followed by some action that intends to avoid the record or mandated consequences of conviction.” (p. 27).

Here’s the regulation for reference:

"The State must not mask, defer imposition of judgment, or allow an individual to enter into a diversion program that would prevent a CLP24 or CDL25 holder's conviction for any violation, in any type of motor vehicle, of a State or local traffic control law (other than parking, vehicle weight, or vehicle defect violations) from appearing on the CDLIS driver record, whether the driver was convicted for an offense committed in the State where the driver is licensed or another State."


What Masking Is Not

It is essential to understand that masking does not encompass legitimate legal actions taken based on the sufficiency of evidence. According to the National District Attorneys Association’s Prosecutors Guide, "The anti-masking provision does not prevent plea bargaining or dismissal of charges.” Plea bargaining, charge dismissal, or amendments by a prosecutor are not considered masking when they are made to align with the evidence's sufficiency. Prosecutors are obligated to evaluate the evidence before pursuing a criminal charge, ensuring that only provable offenses proceed to conviction.

The Role of Evidence and Due Process

Reducing a traffic offense for evidentiary reasons is not masking; it’s a fundamental part of due process. Prosecutors must ensure that every charge meets the standard of beyond a reasonable doubt before it leads to a conviction. The National Traffic Law Center, an arm of the National District Attorney's Association, supports this interpretation:

“The prohibition against masking is not meant to bar plea negotiations in cases involving a violation by a CLP or CDL holder. Caseloads are large, particularly in courtrooms handling traffic offenses. Offenders often are charged with multiple offenses arising from the same incident. Not every charge is provable to the standard of beyond a reasonable doubt. The statute and regulation prohibiting masking do not bar negotiations entered in good faith and supported by facts and law. The anti-masking regulation cannot supersede a defendant’s due process or other Constitutionally protected rights.”

Masking Regulations Potential Conflict With Separation of Powers

The Separation of Powers doctrine ensures that each branch of the government is kept separate and has proper checks and balances to keep parity of power. A key power that the judiciary holds is Judicial Discretion, giving judges the freedom to make decisions based on facts and evidence presented in each case. These discretions include determining appropriateness of convictions, dismissals, or plea bargains. The aim of regulating masking is to ensure that convictions are properly recorded and do not violate the judges ability to use discretion over the case. The judiciary is fully capable of interpreting and applying the law while avoiding the use of masking to hide convictions from record.

At its core, masking involves actions that intentionally hide a CDL holder’s conviction from their driving record. However, reducing or dismissing charges based on a lack of evidence or legal grounds is not masking. It is a necessary practice to uphold justice and due process. The anti-masking regulation is not meant to hinder justice but to prevent the concealment of convictions that could impact public safety. By understanding these nuances, we can maintain the integrity of our legal system while ensuring fair treatment for all drivers.

*The NTLC provides this guide as a reference to common situations that could involve masking:





Prosecutor allows a plea conditioned upon alcohol treatment and adjourns case 6 months.,

Court allows non -adjudication. Non-Adjudication is a process by which after a guilty plea or trial, the court withholds acceptance of the plea and sentence thereon, pending successful completion of any conditions imposed by the court. Upon successful completion of said conditions, the case is dismissed.



for CDL or CLP


Leaner’s Permit)

holders is

prohibited. These

actions prevent

the reporting of

violations and

hides a driver’s

true driving


Using Cellphone While Driving

No reduction offered. Driver pleads as charged. Court allows withdrawal of plea and driver enters new plea to a lesser charge, because driver complains his/her CDL will be revoked if convicted of the original citation. Yes.

If no legal basis exists to the withdraw plea and enter a lesser plea, and withdrawal of the plea was based solely on sympathy, this is Masking.

Failure to Yield

None. Court convicts but allows traffic school in lieu of reporting conviction. Yes.

This practice is called diversion. Allowing driver, after adjudication of guilt to perform actions that will result in conviction being reduced/dismissed is prohibited.


Dismisses case because of insufficient evidence. None. No.

Prosecutor (or judge) may dismiss case for factual or legal inadequacies. Even a reduction would be permitted for this purpose.

Reckless Driving

None. Court accepts plea of no contest, removes case from docket for 6 months and then dismisses citation based on driver’s clean history. Yes.

This practice is known as deferral. An adjournment pending dismissal is prohibited. This action prevents the timely reporting of a conviction.

Speeding 20 mph over the limit in personal vehicle Prosecutor reduces to parking ticket after defense attorney argues driver was NOT in a CMV and if convicted, will lose CDL. Court accepts plea to parking ticket and fine is paid. Yes.

Regulations apply to all vehicles. Driving in nonCMV is not a defense. Also, not every conviction will result in CDL revocation. See tables in 49 C.F.R §383.51.

Failure to obey a traffic device

Prosecutor amends charge to Defective Muffler. Defective muffler ticket is filed with the court. Court accepts plea to Defective Muffler and fine is paid. Yes.

Amending a charge prior to filing in court constitutes Masking, if no legal/factual basis exists to do so. Amending charge to a charge for which no probable cause exists may be ethically questionable.

Leaving the Scene of a Collision


Driver makes charitable donations to Mothers Against Drunk Driving, Victim’s Impact Fund or the local Little League. Court dismisses citation upon proof of charitable contribution made.


Reduction or dismissal of CDL or CLP cases (without legal/factual basis to do so) predicated on charitable donations is prohibited, and may be considered ethically questionable.

Contact Us Today

For a free consultation, contact the Law Offices of George Creal today on the web at or on the phone at (404) 333-0706. We are here to help you navigate the legal system and fight for your rights.


The information in this blog post is for general informational purposes only and should not be construed as legal advice. Please consult with an attorney to discuss your specific legal situation.