If you are a commercial airline pilot or just fly recreationally, nothing can potentially ground you more quickly or for a longer period of time than getting a DUI. From the consequences of a potential DUI conviction or administrative suspension to penalties for not properly following FAA reporting requirements, FAA sanctions can be severe. Rules regulating the area of DUI law as they relate to pilots are very detailed, can be confusing and are always subject to rulings made by the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB). What follows is a brief summary of the hurdles a pilot or prospective pilot might face if arrested for DUI. It is not a substitute for legal advice given after careful analysis of the specific circumstances of any individual case by a DUI and/or aviation lawyer.
FAA DUI Disclosure Requirements
The FAA, pursuant to Federal Aviation Regulation 14 CFR 61, requires that an airman report any DUI conviction or administrative action within 60 calendar days of effective date of the order. For administrative actions, this means any action taken by the state for either refusing a breath or blood test or for providing a breath or blood sample above the state’s per se legal limit. Examples of reportable convictions would include DUI regardless of the name it is given (DUI, DWI, OWI, etc.) Two important things to note here. One is that these are merely examples of what could constitute an administrative action or conviction under the current status of FAA regulations. If you suffer any adverse administrative action or conviction based upon a DUI arrest, you should be consulting with a DUI attorney familiar with aviation regulations or an aviation attorney immediately. Secondly, the FAA notice regulations require that each adverse action is reported. That means if you suffer both an administrative loss of driver’s license and a DUI conviction, both must be reported.
To be in compliance with 14 CFR 61.15(e), a notification letter must be sent to the FAA’s Security and Investigations Division in Oklahoma City, OK, within 60 days. The notice must include, among other things, name, DOB, address, Certificate #, telephone number, the type of violation, date of action, the state of occurrence, driver’s license number and a brief statement of the incident. Once the report is received, the FAA investigated to ensure the notice was sent within the 60 day time period and that there are no other reportable offenses or actions.
Failure to Timely Disclose Reportable Actions – Penalties
Even if the reporting deadline is missed, the action should be reported as soon as the requirement becomes known. If the FAA determines that it’s reporting requirements were not met, a formal investigation will begin with a formal Letter of Investigation being sent along with an opportunity to respond. If you have not responded within the given time period or have been served with a letter of investigation, contact an aviation attorney immediately. Failure to disclose a reportable action in a timely manner can lead to the denial of certificate, rating or authorization for up to a year after the date of the motor vehicle action. It can also mean a suspension or revocation of any certificate, rating or authorization. And because the FAA routinely checks the National Driver Registry, any actions reported by a state’s department of licensing will ultimately be discovered.
Aviation Medical Certificate and DUI
Whether one is applying for a pilot’s license for the first time or is an experienced pilot, they must possess an aviation medical certificate. For first-time applicants, this will be necessary in order to obtain the license. Once licensed, the certificate must be periodically renewed. The presence of a DUI conviction (or convictions) will have different impacts based upon where one is at in their flying career. Things considered on the medical application include:
- Date of conviction
- Number of prior DUI related offenses
- Level of BAC
- Whether there was a refusal to provide a breath/blood sample
- Presence of substance abuse/dependency issues
- Level of treatment completed
- Whether it was properly reported
Depending on the answers to the above as well as the pilot or applicant’s current status it is possible that the application could be denied, accepted without further review or sent off for more rigorous FAA scrutiny.
The bottom line is that for a pilot seeking to protect his career or even his ability to fly recreationally, a DUI arrest will create a litany of potential landmines and pitfalls. Contact either a DUI or an aviation attorney at once. If one is not familiar with both fields of law, you will need to speak with two separate attorneys.
If you are a pilot and are facing DUI charges, contact the attorneys at Milios Defense. We have experience representing pilots as well as those wishing to become pilots. We would be glad to set up a consultation to review your options as well as your FAA obligations.