Have you been arrested for a DUI? Does an expunged arrest need to be disclosed? Do you need to report a DUI to the FAA?
A DUI arrest is a stressful event for any person. When you are a pilot, a DUI arrest can have severe career implications and threaten the years you have invested in obtaining your licenses and certificates. Most airman have immediate questions including:
- Do I have to report this to my employer?
- Do I have to call the FAA immediately?
- How is this going to affect my job?
- How will this affect my medical certificate?
Among the most frequent cases we deal with in our law practice is with pilots who have received a DUI.
We have found that our clients are placed in the best position for successful defense of their licenses when they involve us early in the medical application and disclosure process.
FAR 61.15 – What the Law Says
Under FAR 61.15, Pilots have a reporting requirement for a “motor vehicle action” within 60 calendar days of the effective date of an alcohol and/or drug related conviction or administrative action. A motor vehicle action includes:
“The cancellation, suspension, or revocation of a license to operate a motor vehicle [ . . .] for a cause related to the operation of a motor vehicle while intoxicated by alcohol or a drug, while impaired by alcohol or a drug, or while under the influence of alcohol or a drug; . . .”
Pilots who are arrested for an alleged DUI face an aggressive FAA which tends to err on the side of safety. This results in pilots accused of alcohol abuse or dependence, when they would not otherwise be diagnosed as such by a non-FAA examiner.
In many states, a DUI arrest triggers an automatic suspension of the driver’s license and the pilot then must comply with the reporting requirements of 61.15.
FAA Legal Enforcement Action and Medical Certification
Pilot DUI Cases fall into two general areas of attention from the FAA:
1) Legal or Enforcement Action: For failure to properly report the event or as a result of the DUI circumstances;
2) Medical Certification: Upon disclosure or discovery of a DUI, the circumstances of the DUI may result in further attention from the FAA.
1) FAA Enforcement Action – Will my medical be revoked?
In many cases, a skilled criminal DUI Defense attorney can have a DUI matter reduced to a less serious charge (say reckless driving) or have the matter dismissed entirely. This does NOT relieve the pilot of the responsibility to report the arrest on the medical application. The FAA has a team of very competent investigators who regularly compare the National Drive Registry (NDR) to the database of medical applications. A discrepancy results in a Letter of Investigation, which eventually could, and many times does, lead to an Emergency Order of Revocation.
Regardless if the airman reports the DUI, or if the FAA discovers an unreported offense, the FAA will likely initiate enforcement action. An enforcement action comes in the form of:
- Letter of Investigation
- Notice of Proposed Certificate Action
- Emergency Order of Suspension
- Emergency Order of Revocation
These enforcement action letters come from a FAA inspector, investigator, or attorney and have response deadlines. If you receive a letter from the FAA, don’t delay in contacting an aviation attorney.
2) FAA Medical Certification – How do I tell the FAA?
Most pilots are aware that a DUI must be reported on the pilot’s next medical application when answering questions 18.v. However, a common misunderstanding is that an arrest is only reportable if there is also a DUI conviction. Additional questions arise about what types of event needs to be disclosed. Does an expunged arrest need disclosure? Does a Minor In Possession need disclosure? If you have any of these questions, please give us a call to discuss with an aviation attorney.
Timing can be significant factor in a DUI matter, especially if the pilot’s medical certificate is due to be renewed before the court case is concluded.
When a DUI is reported via a 61.15, or initially disclosed on the airman medical application, the airman will most certainly receive a letter from the Aviation Medical Certification Division requesting additional information about the DUI.
The FAA takes the issue of alcohol abuse and alcohol dependence VERY seriously (see for example FAR 67.307 (a) (4) and (b)).
One of the primary concerns of the FAA with a pilot who has a DUI is that of alcohol dependence. During the DUI arrest, if a pilot provides a breath or blood sample that produces a BAC of over .15, the FAA is concerned that the pilot may have an “increased tolerance” of alcohol (see FAR 67.307 (a)(4)(ii)). Once a diagnosis of alcohol dependence is made, the FAA is genuinely concerned about the pilot’s safety. Often times the pilot will be grounded while undergoing additional evaluations, treatment or after care in order to determine the pilot’s fitness to fly. This can be a very expensive and time consuming process.
We employ experts where necessary, and make sure that the airman gets the appropriate counseling and evaluations in anticipation of how the FAA will respond. We answer questions the pilot may have on the 8500 application to ensure proper completion.
Don’t Wait…Call Us for A Consultation with an Aviation Attorney
Barnett Law Offices handle Pilot DUI arrest matters on a daily basis. We understand how to place the pilot in the best position in the eyes of the FAA. Through each step of this complex process we can provide sound legal advice to help navigate through and minimize or eliminate the potential pitfalls that await the unsuspecting pilot.
Contact us to speak with an aviation attorney for a free confidential consultation of your matter. Toll Free 800-578-5512