Phillips Law Offices, DUI Lawyers

Drunk Driving Arrests, Convictions and Pilot's License

Being stopped for DUI can have serious repercussions if you also hold a pilot's license. Here is information that you need to know if you are an airman and you have a DUI or alcohol issue facing you. First, let's look at the specific regulations that govern the actions taken against airmen who are arrested for suspicion of drunk driving.

Code of Federal Regulations 91.17
Code of Federal Regulations 91.17, pertaining to the use of drugs and alcohol by pilots, declares no person may operate or attempt to operate an airplane or aircraft, including helicopters, hot air balloons, gliders, etc. within 8 of hours of alcohol consumption, and/or while under the influence of alcohol or drugs, or with a BAC of .04% or above, or while ingesting any drug affecting safety adversely.

Federal Aviation Regulation (CFR) 61.15 
FAA Regulation 14 CFR 61.15 requires that all pilots and airmen remit a Letter of Notification Letter to the Federal Aviation Administration's Security and Investigations Division no later than 60 calendar days after a conviction or administrative penalty, such as DMV Admin Per Se License Suspension, for an alcohol or drug related offense, the effective date of an alcohol- related conviction or administrative action.

Separate Notification Letters for DMV & Court Actions 
Each event, conviction or administrative action requires a separate Notification Letter. For example, an airman's driver license may be suspended at the time of arrest for driving under the influence of alcohol for either failing a blood/breath test or refusing to submit to a test. In this case, the airman must send a Notification Letter regarding the suspension, and then must send a second Notification Letter if the alcohol related offense results in a conviction. (Note: Even though the airman sent two notification letters, the FAA views the suspension and conviction as one alcohol-related incident.)

Send Notification Letters to:

 Federal Aviation Administration Security and Investigations Division (AMC- 700)
P.O. Box 25810
Oklahoma City, OK 73125

or Fax to: (405) 954-4989

To speed processing, the letter must contain the following information:

* Name

* Address

* Date of Birth and Certificate Number

* Telephone Number

* Type of Violation (conviction and/or administrative action)

* Date(s) of Action(s)

* State Holding the Record

* Driver License Number or State ID Number (if not licensed)

* Statement whether this relates to a Previously Reported motor vehicle action (MVA) History

Note: In the eyes of the FAA, the biggest transgression is not being cited for DUI or losing an administrative driver's license action. The most heavily sanctioned action is NOT reporting an adverse driver's license action to the FAA in a timely fashion.

 Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association (AOPA) Pilot Assistance Hotline: 1-800-USA-AOPA (1-800-872-2572) Contacting a DUI - FAA Agent: (405) 954-4848

Refusal to Submit to a Drug or Alcohol Test 
In the event you refuse a test, your certificate, rating or authorization can be revoked for up to a year following the date of your refusal. As well, any application for a certificate, rating or authorization will be denied for the same period.

Offenses Involving Alcohol or Drugs 
If you are convicted for violating any Federal or State law regarding drugs, you likewise will have your certificate, rating, or authorization revoked for a year following the conviction or denied any application for same. This concerns the growing, processing, manufacture, sale, disposition, possession, transportation or importation of narcotic drugs, marijuana, depressant or stimulant drugs or substances.

Motor Vehicle Actions (MVA)
 A motor vehicle action on your record can mean one of several things:

* A conviction for operating a motor vehicle while intoxicated, impaired or under the influence of alcohol or drugs

* Having a drivers license cancelled, suspended or revoked for DUI

* Having an application for a license denied for DUI

Having two MVAs taken against you within a 3-year period is grounds for suspension or revocation of any certificate, rating or authorization for one year after the date of the last action taken or application for same.

The National Driver Register (NDR) 
This is a computerized database of information about U.S. drivers. It contains records on those who have had their licenses revoked or suspended, or who have been convicted of serious traffic violations (e.g., driving while impaired by alcohol or drugs). Pilots applying for medical certificates must allow the FAA to query the NDR database. State motor vehicle agencies provide NDR with the names of individuals who have lost their driving privilege or who have been convicted of a serious traffic violation. When a person applies for a driver's license, the state checks to see if the name is on the NDR file. If a person has been reported to the NDR as a problem driver, the application for a pilot’s license may be denied.

New FAA Procedures for Dealing with Intoxicated Pilots 
Since 2002, the number of commercial pilots testing positive for alcohol more than doubled. As a result, the FAA instituted new procedures for dealing with them. Since then, pilots who fail a sobriety test have their medical and airman’s certificates revoked immediately. Previously, only the medical certificate was revoked.

To get their certificates back, the pilot must wait a year and go through rehabilitation to restore his medical certificate, and wait a year and retake all written and flight tests to reinstate the airman certificate.

The Department of Transportation randomly tests 10,000 of the nation’s 75,000 pilots each year. Some are caught at this stage. Others are found through suspicious behavior alerts via airline officials or the police. In a post-9/11 environment, increased alertness of passengers has increased reports of suspicious pilot behavior.

Substance Dependence 
A diagnosis or medical history of substance dependence disqualifies you from pilot’s certification unless there is established clinical evidence, satisfactory to the Federal Air Surgeon, of recovery, including sustained total abstinence from the substance(s) for not less than the preceding two years. A history of substance abuse within the preceding two years is disqualifying. Substance includes alcohol and other drugs (i.e., PCP, sedatives and hypnotics, marijuana, cocaine, opiates, amphetamines, hallucinogens, and other psychoactive drugs or chemicals).

If you are applying for a medical certificate but have a history of abuse or dependence you must submit the following information:

* A current status report from a physician certified in addictive disorders and familiar with aviation standards.

* A personnel statement from you attesting to the substance and amount, and date last used.

* Whether you have attended a rehabilitation clinic/center, the dates attended along with copies of your treatment plan.

Common Questions Concerning Pilots and DUI's

Where do I send my notification letter?
Send the letter to: Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) Security and Investigations Division (AMC-700) P.O. Box 25810 Oklahoma City, OK 73125 or Fax to (405) 954-4989

Do I have to report anything other than alcohol-related convictions?
 Yes, you must report alcohol-related administrative actions, whether a conviction took place or not. Administrative actions and convictions are also reportable when applying for a medical certificate.

If the charge of Driving Under the Influence (DUI) is reduced to Reckless, Careless, or Negligent driving by the court, do I have to report it? 
FAA Regulation 14 CFR 61.15 requires that only convictions for "DUI" need be reported, not convictions to 'lessor' or substituted offenses. However, any alcohol-related administrative actions (i.e. by the DMV ) whether a conviction took place or not must be reported. Also, administrative actions and convictions are also reportable when applying for a medical certificate.

How long do I have to report an alcohol-related motor vehicle action (MVA)?
 You have 60 days from the effective date of the administrative action (driver license suspension, revocation, or cancellation) or conviction. (The 60-day period does not begin with the arrest date.)

What happens when I report an alcohol-related MVA within the 60 days?
 You should immediately seek competent legal representation for any alcohol or drug related MVA. Ordinarily, the firm you have retained will compile a case file on you and verify your airman status. They should get your driver history from the state where your record is kept. Then your driver record will be compared to the notification letter you are required to send. Assuming you’ve sent the notification letter, have disclosed the MVA on your application for an airman medical certificate (if applicable) and you haven’t received two MVAs within three years, your case file is ordinarily closed.

I received an alcohol-related MVA, but failed to report it within the 60 days. What should I do?
 You should report the MVA immediately, as soon as you became aware of the necessity to report it. If you have written a report after 60 days but before the MVA is discovered will usually be considered a mitigating circumstance when determining the sanctions against your certificate, rating or authorization.

What happens if I fail to report an alcohol-related MVA and FAA finds out about it?
 The FAA will begin a formal investigation. Your lawyer should send you a Letter of Investigation, which will give you the opportunity to respond, in writing, to the alleged violation(s).

Will FAA discover that I have an alcohol-related MVA if I don't report it?
 Yes. When you apply for an airman medical certificate, the form contains a provision where you consent to authorize the National Driver Register (NDR) to release information about your driving record to FAA. These records will contain information on any alcohol-related MVA on you.

Who has access to the records kept by the DUI Compliance Program?
 Only investigators assigned to the DUI program have access to the information files.

DISCLAIMER: This site and any information contained herein are intended for informational purposes only and should not be construed as legal advice or establishing a lawyer-client relationship. Seek competent legal counsel in your jurisdiction for advice on any legal matter. Phillips Law Offices is licensed in the State of California only and laws vary dramatically from state to state.