The laws and regulations governing pilots charged with or convicted of DUI is complex. Any proper analysis is compounded by decisions rendered by the National Transportation Safety Board. Likewise, the individual facts and circumstances will of course differ greatly between each individual. This web site page is not intended to provide a comprehensive understanding in this area. Nor should it be construed as offering legal advice. After reviewing the information that follows, pilots are strongly urged to:
- Review the Federal Aviation Regulations;
- Consider the extensive information on this topic provided within the Federal Aviation Administration Airman DUI/DWI Program web site;
- Contact the “help line” associated with the aviation organizational source listed below; and immediately consult with legal counsel experienced in the area of DUI and pilots.
Background & History
“The DUI compliance program was established in November of 1990 by a Congressional Act. The final rule was published in the Federal Register on August 1, 1990 and was codified in Federal Aviation Regulations Parts 61 and 67. The final rule sets forth regulations under which the FAA may deny an application for, suspend or revoke, an airman certificate or rating if an individual has had two or more alcohol-related motor vehicle convictions or state motor vehicle administrative actions within a 3-year period. The rule requires pilots to report to the FAA in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma all alcohol or drug related motor vehicle convictions or state motor vehicle administrative actions that occur after the effective date of the final rule. The rule also amends the FAA’s medical certification rules to include an “express consent” provision that authorizes the FAA to obtain information from the National Driver Register.” Federal Aviation Administration, Airman DUI/DWI Program
The Reporting Requirement
The biggest problem that develops with pilots who have been arrested or charged with a DUI comes as a result of their failure to timely report the incident to the FAA. Many pilots mistakenly believe that their DUI charge may never be discovered. However, both administrative actions (DHSMV) and court orders associated with a DUI are automatically reported to the National Driver Register (NDR). Pilot medical reviews are always accompanied by a search of the NDR. If the FAA subsequently sees an alcohol or drug-related “motor vehicle action” (MVA) on the NDR report, they then routinely check their own records to see if the pilot timely reported the matter to the FAA. Failure of the pilot to have timely reported the (MVA) (conviction, cancellation, suspension, or revocation) to the FAA – Office of Security and Investigation in Oklahoma City will typically result in a 30 day suspension of any certificate, rating, or authorization issued.
Although the pilot is required to report the (MVA) at the time of his medical application, it is important to note that this notification is not sufficient. Nor does notification to the local FAA FSDO comply under the rule. Again, notification must be in proper form and timely sent to the proper place.
Pilots are urged to consider the following important points:
- Pilots only have sixty days to make a written report to the FAA when they suffer an alcohol or drug-related “motor vehicle action” (MVA) (administrative or court ordered conviction, cancellation, suspension, or revocation);
- In Florida, the administrative suspension of one’s privilege to drive may commence upon the blowing into an intoxilyzer machine with a resulting .08 B.A.C. or above. It may also commence in the event the driver refuses to submit to a breath, blood, and/or urine test. Therefore, it could be a major mistake to assume that a pilot doesn’t have to report the incident to the FAA unless and until they are convicted. Remember, the DHSMV administrative suspension caused by an unlawful B.A.C.; or the refusal to submit to breath, blood or urine testing, could cause the FAA “reporting clock” to start running long before any conviction handed down by a judge or jury.