If you have a reporting requirement under 61.15, you’ll get a letter acknowledging your report. It’s very important to realize that you have an additional responsibility: if you first reported your driver’s license suspension or a DUI arrest and then you’re subsequently convicted of a DUI, you have to report both the suspension and the conviction. This will inform the FAA that the suspension and DUI conviction arrived out of the same arrest. Then it still only counts as one “motor vehicle action.”
The FAA is serious about enforcing those reporting requirements. FAA 61.15 goes on to say that if you have 2 motor vehicle actions within a 3-year period, then they can take action against your pilot’s license. The FAA can go for revocation or suspension of your pilot’s license. That’s significant in that, if you’ve got one DUI, you need to avoid getting another one within 3 years.
After the second DUI, there is no report administrative process or the 61.15 report. On the medical side, once you report the DUI on question 18V, the Aviation Medical Examiner (AME) has a decision process that he’ll go through.
If this is the pilot’s first DUI and his or her blood alcohol content (BAC) is below 0.15, he or she may be able to issue their medical certificate at the time they apply for the certificate. If their BAC is 0.15 or above, the pilot will likely have to defer their medical certificate. At that point, some time down the road, the pilot will get a letter from the FAA and they’re going to ask the pilot for the police report and the court disposition papers.
Once they’ve reviewed those, they may send a second letter asking for a statement about the pilot’s alcohol use past, present and future, and at the time of the event, a 10-year driving history from the pilot’s state of record.
If BAC is above 0.20, they could ask for a Human Intervention Motivation Study (HIMS). This information is compiled and analyzed by a HIMS trained AME who would make a request for a medical certificate. The FAA will look at all the information that has been presented to them as it attempts to determine if a pilot is alcohol dependent or not.
It’s important to consider FAR 67107 for first class medical, 67207 for second class, 67307 for third class – all 3 regulations are identical, but in that regulation you can find the FAA definition of substance dependence including alcohol. Unlike the Diagnostic and Statistics Manual (DSM) criteria which is the guidance that helps other medical professionals make diagnoses of dependence issues. In the DSM-5, there are currently 11 criteria, 2 of which have to be present within a 12-month period for a diagnosis to be made. The FAA takes those 11 criteria and loosely condenses them into 4 and says, “If you’ve ever had one of these 4 criteria in your life ever, you are dependant.”
One of those 4 criteria is “increased tolerance.” That’s why the FAA is so interested in a pilot’s BAC at the time of arrest. In the FAA’s opinion, if your BAC is 0.15 or above, it begins to suspect you might be alcohol dependant. If it’s 0.20 or above, the FAA is practically certain. Once the FAA has made its analysis, if it determines that you are alcohol dependant, then it’s looking for 28 days of in-patient treatment in a place like Betty Ford, for example, followed by 90 AA meetings within 90 days and then they’ll ask the pilot to abstain from alcohol and be monitored for a period of at least 2 years.
In some cases, the monitoring could be for the duration of the pilot’s career. The monitoring consists of 14 random ETG tests, it’s a urine analysis and in some cases, even more sensitive PETEH test to ensure the pilot is abstaining from alcohol. In addition to that, there are often requirements for quarterly visits to your AME and/or annual evaluations from a HIMS trained psychiatrist. To the best of your ability, a pilot wants to avoid demonstrating to the FAA that he or she is alcohol dependant.
In sum, if you have a DUI of 0.08 or 0.09, you’re well below the FAA suspicion of increased tolerance. If it’s your one and only DUI, it’s likely your medical certificate can be issued without much further action. However, if it’s your second or third DUI or you have another history of alcohol related events, for example, a minor in possession or public intoxication, the FAA begins to look at the bigger picture that there may be a dependency issue that isn’t necessarily reflected just by increased tolerance.
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