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Aviation Pilot's License: The Impact of a DUI • Suhre & Associates


Written by Nathan Miller, Attorney at Law on August 30, 2018 in DUI Defense

What happens when a pilot is charged with a DUI? Does FAR 61.15(e) require a pilot to report a DUI arrest? Does the local FSDO need to be notified?

A DUI charge can ground pilots if handled improperly. But a single mistake doesn’t have to mean the end of a lifelong passion. With the help of a good attorney, pilots can navigate the legal obstacles ahead and stay up in the air.

People invest a lot of time and money earning their pilot’s license. For most, it is more than just a job or a hobby – it is everything. The thought of one unfortunate incident ending what has become an integral part of one’s very existence can be overwhelming, but it is important to address the matter swiftly to ensure that damages are mitigated.

There are many considerations at play here. For those who fly for a living, your company’s internal reporting policies should be followed to the letter. The local FSDO may need to be notified. One constant is what the FAA Civil Security Division mandates: that any “motor vehicle action” resulting in the cancellation, suspension, or revocation of a driver’s license, as well as a conviction relating to a DUI, must be reported no later than sixty (60) days after it occurs. Details can be found in FAR 61.15(e).

Subsection (f) of 61.15 states that “[f]ailure to comply with paragraph (e) … is grounds for — (2) [s]uspension of revocation of any certificate, rating, or authorization issued under this part.”

There is another important reporting requirement: item 18(v) on the FAA medical application. This requires applicants to report any arrests, convictions, or administrative actions regarding their driver’s license. Just being arrested for DUI triggers this reporting requirement. And if a driver has refused the breath or other chemical test – or submitted to a test and registered a BAC greater than 0.15 percent – then the medical examiner will not be able to issue a medical certificate and the application will be deferred to the FAA. Failure to provide the medical examiner with arrest reports, court records, and a detailed history of all past alcohol/substance-related incidents within fourteen (14) days will also result in deferral.

If you get deferred, there is still hope. You may have to show a couple of years in recovery or that you have taken certain other proactive measures, but one DUI will not necessarily ground you for life. The likelihood of getting back in the air decreases with the more incidents one has in their past. Three (3) or more arrests in a lifetime, or two (2) in the previous ten (10) years, will certainly ground you. If this is your first DUI, however, and you report in a timely manner, take corrective action, and are up-front and honest, a delay in your medical certificate being issued is probably just as likely as a denial.

More details on medical reporting can be found in FAR 61.14.

In summary, the FAA will find out about your DUI. Do not delay. Take action immediately by hiring an attorney familiar with these issues to help you keep your license. At Suhre and Associates, we are not just focused on the DUI laws you will face in the courtroom, but we work with attorneys who know by heart the specific FAA regulations implicated by a DUI arrest.

Nathan Miller, Attorney at LawAUTHOR NATHAN MILLER
Nathan Miller is a Louisville Criminal Defense Attorney and has been practicing law in Kentucky for over 15 years. Mr. Miller spent three years on Capitol Hill in Washington D.C. crafting controlled substance and DUI legislation at the local, state and federal levels. He is also a certified practitioner of Standardized Field Sobriety Testing and has attended the National Forensic College.

§ 61.14 Refusal to submit to a drug or alcohol test.

  1. This section applies to an employee who performs a function listed in appendix I to part 121 or appendix J to part 121 of this chapter directly or by contract for a part 121 air carrier, a part 135 air carrier, or for a person conducting operations as specified in § 135.1(a)(5) of this chapter.
  2. Refusal by the holder of a certificate issued under this part to take a drug test required under the provisions of appendix I to part 121 or an alcohol test required under the provisions of appendix J to part 121 is grounds for:
    1. Denial of an application for any certificate, rating, or authorization issued under this part for a period of up to 1 year after the date of such refusal; and
    2. Suspension or revocation of any certificate, rating, or authorization issued under this part.

§ 61.15 Offenses involving alcohol or drugs.

  1. A conviction for the violation of any Federal or State statute relating to the growing, processing, manufacture, sale, disposition, possession, transportation, or importation of narcotic drugs, marijuana, or depressant or stimulant drugs or substances is grounds for:
    1. Denial of an application for any certificate, rating, or authorization issued under this part for a period of up to 1 year after the date of final conviction; or
    2. Suspension or revocation of any certificate, rating, or authorization issued under this part.
  2. Committing an act prohibited by §91.17(a) or §91.19(a) of this chapter is grounds for:
    1. Denial of an application for a certificate, rating, or authorization issued under this part for a period of up to 1 year after the date of that act; or
    2. Suspension or revocation of any certificate, rating, or authorization issued under this part.
  3. For the purposes of paragraphs (d), (e), and (f) of this section, a motor vehicle action means:
    1. A conviction after November 29,1990, for the violation of any Federal or State statute relating 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;
    2. The cancellation, suspension, or revocation of a license to operate a motor vehicle after November 29, 1990, 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; or
    3. The denial after November 29, 1990, of an application for 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.
  4. Except for a motor vehicle action that results from the same incident or arises out of the same factual circumstances, a motor vehicle action occurring within 3 years of a previous motor vehicle action is grounds for:
    1. Denial of an application for any certificate, rating, or authorization issued under this part for a period of up to 1 year after the date of the last motor vehicle action; or
    2. Suspension or revocation of any certificate, rating, or authorization issued under this part.
  5. Each person holding a certificate issued under this part shall provide a written report of each motor vehicle action to the FAA, Civil Aviation Security Division (AMC–700), P.O. Box 25810, Oklahoma City, OK 73125, not later than 60 days after the motor vehicle action. The report must include:
    1. The person’s name, address, date of birth, and airman certificate number;
    2. The type of violation that resulted in the conviction or the administrative action;
    3. The date of the conviction or administrative action;
    4. The State that holds the record of conviction or administrative action; and
    5. A statement of whether the motor vehicle action resulted from the same incident or arose out of the same factual circumstances related to a previously reported motor vehicle action.
  6. Failure to comply with paragraph (e) of this section is grounds for:
    1. Denial of an application for any certificate, rating, or authorization issued under this part for a period of up to 1 year after the date of the motor vehicle action; or
    2. Suspension or revocation of any certificate, rating, or authorization issued under this part.

§ 61.16 Refusal to submit to an alcohol test or to furnish test results.

A refusal to submit to a test to indicate the percentage by weight of alcohol in the blood, when requested by a law enforcement officer in accordance with §91.17(c) of this chapter, or a refusal to furnish or authorize the release of the test results requested by
the Administrator in accordance with §91.17(c) or (d) of this chapter, is grounds for:

  1. Denial of an application for any certificate, rating, or authorization issued under this part for a period of up to 1 year after the date of that refusal; or
  2. Suspension or revocation of any certificate, rating, or authorization issued under this part.

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