Pilot Licenses and a DUI: What to do with the FAA and your Airman’s Certificate


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Pilot Licenses and a DUI: What to do with the FAA and your Airman’s Certificate

Pilot Licenses and a DUI:  What to do with the FAA and your Airman’s Certificate

DUI and Pilots

Pilot Licenses and DUI. You are a pilot.  You depend on your FAA Airman’s Certificate and License, and your Medical Certification, for your career.  And you know the FAA takes DUI cases seriously. If you get a DUI as a pilot, what do you need to do?  This article discusses Pilot Licenses and a DUI:  What to do with the FAA and your Airman’s Certificate.

Pilot Licenses and a DUI – Planning Ahead

Logic tells you that the best course of action is to plan ahead.  Using taxis, ride sharing services like Uber or Lyft, or the kidness of friends, avoids you driving without any substances in your system and avoids the problem Pilot Licenses and DUI from the beginning.

After their arrest, many pilots try to explain to the FAA the circumstances around their DUI event, and mention that they did not think they drank that much or how close they got pulled over to their home, or how much they needed to drive that night as a matter of necessity.

None of that matters to the FAA.

Pilot Licenses and a DUI – if arrested

The next thing to understand is to not refuse a breathalyzer test when the officer requests you to perform one. That is a “refusal” under California law, and in legal terminology the FAA views that as equivalent to a DUI, no matter whether or not you were truly impaired or over the legal limit.  With a California Driver’s License, you can suffer a one year hard suspension of your driving privileges if you refuse, and that action alone for holders of Pilot Licenses and DUI convictions can cause the FAA can pull your certificate, or take other actions, if you refuse.

Note that you must report to the FAA DMV actions or DUI arrest on the medical certification application in section 18(v) when you are arrested, not just when you are convicted. 

Pilot Licenses and a DUI – if convicted

There are two things, as a pilot, that you also need to do when you are convicted of a DUI. Federal Aviation Regulation 61.15(e) states that when an airman is convicted of an action involving alcohol or drugs, a report must be made to the FAA Civil Aviation Security Division not later than 60 days after the motor vehicle action. Pilot Licenses and DUI are a growing problem, so there is an <http://www.faa.gov/about/office_org/headquarters_offices/ash/ash_programs/investigations/airmen_duidwi/> online form that you can download and submit to the security division: Online Airmen DUI Report.  (Under 14 CFR 61.15, all pilots must send a Notification Letter (MS Word) to the FAA Security and Investigations Division, within 60 calendar days of the effective date of an alcohol-related conviction or administrative action.)

Pilot Licenses and a DUI – if you miss the deadline

Failure to send a Notification Letter within 60 days to FAA’s Security & Investigations Division is grounds for:

  • Denial of an application for any certificate, rating, or authorization issued under this regulation for up to one year after the date of the motor vehicle action
  • Suspension or revocation of any certificate, rating, or authorization issued under this regulation

Pilot Licenses and a DUI – your medical certification

The other reporting requirement is Item 18(v) on your next FAA medical application. The application requires that the applicant must report any arrests, or convictions, or administrative actions relating to operating a motor vehicle under the influence of alcohol or drugs.

Please note that even if your DUI lawyer has the case dismissed, or the charges are reduced to anything below a DUI,  that result is still not an excuse not to report, as the arrest itself triggers mandatory reporting for Pilot Licenses and DUI! If you were pulled over, requested to perform a field sobriety test, and/or asked to perform a breathalyzer, that is reportable in the affirmative on the application, by itself.

Your FAA medical certificate is handled separately for Pilot Licenses and DUI, as alcohol abuse is treated as a potential physical or psychological issue.  The FAA medical personnel will then require your AME to obtain the arresting officer’s report, in addition to copies of the court records of your hearing.

Pilot Licenses and a DUI – high alcohol levels

If your breathalyzer results are equal to or greater than 0.15 percent, you will need to provide a substance abuse evaluation. That will require you to locate a licensed counselor in substance abuse/dependence, or a psychologist or psychiatrist who has extra training in addiction medicine, and be evaluated. Depending on the results of the evaluation, you may be required to provide even more extensive (and expensive) evaluations. If your breathalyzer is less than the 0.15 percent, then you may not need to do nothing else.

Pilot Licenses and a DUI – a personal statement

The FAA often also requests that you submit a “personal statement” surrounding the events leading up to the traffic stop and DUI arrest, including comments about your past and current alcohol/drug use. My personal advice is to be honest in the letter. Do not be confrontational, and it is in your best interests to stick to the facts, be truthful and honest, and remorseful if anything.

In all of these circumstances, the FAA medical records office maintains a record of how many DUIs you collect. Two DUI events within a three-year period will result in the requirement for an evaluation by an addiction trained psychologist or psychiatrist. Three DUIs in a lifetime is considered by the FAA to be a possible sign of alcohol dependence and will result in a denial of your medical application. In order to attempt to regain your medical certificate after that event, you will be required to obtain:

  • psychological and psychiatric evaluations by addiction trained specialists who are familiar with FAA policies;
  • a certified true copy of all the driving records in states you hold licenses in; and
  • a typed letter from yourself concerning your alcohol- or drug-use habits.

Pilot Licenses and a DUI – where to send information

The Address to Send Notification Letters to:

Federal Aviation Administration
Security and Investigations Division (AMC-700)
P.O. Box 25810
Oklahoma City, OK 73125
Fax to: (405) 954-4989

The FAA Form 8500-8 “Application for Airmen Medical” contains an express consent provision which authorizes the National Driver Register (NDR) to release information about your driving record to FAA. Information on the NDR record will contain pointers to states that keep a driving history on you. The FAA will obtain applicable records to determine if you have a reportable alcohol-related MVA.The National Driver’s Registration (NDR) also reveals all alcohol related arrests and convictions to the FAA via authorization from the medical application. You should expect that the FAA will be notified of your arrest within a week.

The consequences vary from being placed on probation to termination or revocation of your Pilot Licenses and DUI punishment in addition. Failing to disclose can exacerbate the problem and cause more serious and more recent disciplinary results to Pilot Licenses and DUI action against driver’s licenses.

Pilot Licenses and a DUI – International Travel

International Travel and DUI

A conviction can also cause problems entering certain countries, most notably Canada.  That country, and certain others, often deny access to visitors with DUI convictions. This would be especially difficult for commercial pilots, who are required to travel to many foreign countries as part of their employment.

Pilot Licenses and a DUI – we can help

Our office has represented many pilots in the past, and as someone that held an FAA Private Pilots License, I am especially sympathetic and helpful towards those with an Airmen’s Certificate.  Pilot Licenses and DUI take special handling. We can help you and keep you flying.

Contact us now – Let’s Get Started.

Don’t delay contacting us.  We can start you on a plan of action today that will help your license later. Contact us today.


How NOT to get a DUI: How to Drink

How Not to get a DUI:  How to Drink during a night out to remain below the limit.

How Not to get a DUI. Did you know that there are certain simple steps you can take to remain below a .08 during a night out?

Obviously, having someone else take care of the driving, including Uber, Lyft, a limo or a taxi, will avoid you becoming arrested during a night out.   Ride sharing services have resulted in a statistically measurable reduction in DUI arrests and accidents.

But for cases involving alcohol (and not prescription or other drug DUI), it’s helpful to know a little bit about how alcohol works in the body.

Alcohol is hydrophilic, meaning that the molecule attaches itself to water, and evenly distributes itself throughout the body.  Alcohol affects women more than men, mainly because men have more water content than women do (due to higher muscle mass), and affects the brain, because the brain has high water content.

1.  How Not to Get a DUI: Stay Hydrated.

Drinking and Flying Don't Mix

So here’s tip number one – make sure you drink water until you’re fully hydrated before you drink, and drink water between any alcoholic drinks you have.

2.  How Not to Get a DUI: Just Eat Something.

Tip number two is to eat.  Eating something before you drink is extremely important.  When you consume food, the pylorus, or pyloric valve in the bottom of the stomach, closes.  If you have alcohol after eating, the alcohol is introduced into your system at the same rate as whatever the food is in your stomach.  If you eat simple carbohydrates, like sugars, bread and pasta, those are processed fastest. Complex carbohydrates are processed next fastest, followed by protein, and then fats.  So eat protein and fats before drinking.

There is a myth that eating after having consummated alcohol can “sop up” the alcohol. Beware; once alcohol is in your system, only time will allow it to dissipate.  What you eat after the fact doesn’t make a difference.

3.  How Not to Get a DUI: Obey Every Traffic Law.

dui orange county

Once you are driving, you must be careful to obey all traffic and other laws.  This includes having your lighting equipment, tags/stickers, and equipment working correctly. The police will not be legally justified in stopping you, and will not have probable cause for a DUI if you don’t violate the law. Putting aside your cell phone and concentrating on driving can keep you from being pulled over.

4.  How Not to Get a DUI: Be Organized.

Officer DUI Checkpoint

If you are stopped, you may be asked for your license and registration.  Put this in a place where you can get it easily ahead of time.  The police will be watching carefully to see if you fumble as this information is being handed over.

5.  How Not to Get a DUI: Be Polite.

If you are asked if you were drinking, know that you are not required to answer that question, as it could be self incriminating.  I get asked almost daily what the best response to this question is, and the truth is, it doesn’t matter.

The police officer will smell the breath inside the car and from the headliner of the vehicle, to see if there is an odor of an alcoholic beverage.  The police officer will look at your eyes carefully to see if they are bloodshot and watery.  The police will notice if your speech is slurred or slow.  And the police officer will observe, if you get out of the vehicle, whether or not you are unsteady, lean against the vehicle, or have trouble walking or standing up.  Those observations will be the primary determination of your intoxication, not your admissions or confessions to drinking.  You can answer that however you like, but I prefer that drivers answer “my attorney has told me never to answer that question“, and leave it at that.

6.  How Not to Get a DUI: Refuse Everything that is Not Required.

If you are asked to submit to field sobriety tests, you should politely refuse them.  These tests are voluntary under the law, and usually don’t result in you being let go.  They are used to support the officer’s conclusion that you were under the influence. Typically, the officer will just “start” performing field sobriety tests, so you will be placed in the uncomfortable position of asking the officer to stop, or refusing further tests.

If you are asked to take a field breathalyzer to screen for alcohol, politely refuse, as this is a field sobriety test, and is not necessarily used as definitive evidence of your alcohol level.  The law requires, as a condition of your license, that you submit to an evidentiary test (meaning a breath test under controlled circumstances, or blood test), or face a one year suspension of your driving privileges.  So you should agree to take a breath or a blood test.

7.  How Not to Get a DUI: Breath before Blood.

Vincent Turner, 36, left, of Australia laughs as the blood alcohol content (BAC) is revealed for his friend Brandon Lee, 44, of Peachtree Corners, Georgia during the Huntington Beach Police Department's "Know Your Limit" program visited Sharkeez in downtown Huntington Beach. Both men were well under the legal limit. ///ADDITIONAL INFORMATION: hb.1009.dui Ð 9/26/14 Ð LEONARD ORTIZ, ORANGE COUNTY REGISTER - _LOR7166.NEF - Reporter and photographer will visit HB Main Street bars with HBPD officers for the "Know Your Limit" Program. This program offers voluntary breathalyzer tests to bar patrons to help educate people about how intoxicated they are.
Breath testing machine in Huntington Beach

In my opinion, and other attorneys might have a different view on this, you should take a breath test instead of a blood test.  I say this, despite the various defenses available for blood tests, for specific reasons.

First of all, the law is written to measure “blood alcohol content“.  Taking a measure of alcohol from your breath means that it needs to be converted to a range of what your blood alcohol level should be.

That conversion allows for argument, since the breath machine doesn’t know (but assumes) your lung capacity, or how much your body weight, water content, etc., deviates from the standard used.

Second, the breath machine is subject to manipulation more than blood testing devices are.  There are many defenses to breath tests in a DUI. Breath machines are sensitive to fermentation caught in dental work, or between teeth, or from someone belching, burping, vomiting, or suffering from Acid Reflux or GERD.  Airbag dust, diabetes or a ketogenic diet, or earlier exposure to paint fumes can create a false positive. Breath machines are also highly sensitive to temperature and atmospheric pressure.

If at all possible, without creating a safety issue for the officers, or the jail, delay testing as much as possible, if you have been drinking 2-3 hours or more before the test.  This allows the time factor to work in your favor, burning off alcohol, and putting you into the dissipation phase.

When you are in front of the breath machine, just as holding your breath warms the air, and makes your test result higher, cooling the air going into the machine makes your breath test lower than it might otherwise be.  Remember, breath machines are highly sensitive to temperature.  Hyperventilating, or taking deep but fast breaths, cools your breathing passageways, and will result in a (slightly) lower breath result.

So, the short answer is, refuse the field sobriety tests, refuse the field breathalyzer, delay as much as possible, and then choose a breath test and hyperventilate before taking the test.

8.  How Not to Get a DUI: Fight your Case.

Should I fight my DUI?  That depends.  There is a lot of grey area in between “fighting your case” and “accepting whatever punishment you get”.  A good lawyer that knows DUI well and specializes in handling DUI cases will be able to analyze your case and come up with the best strategy for your defense.  It may be, given the facts of your case, that you have a very good motion to dismiss your case, or a very good chance of winning at trial.  In that case, it would not make sense to take the first deal offered to you, or any deal at all.  It may be that after analyzing all the facts of your case, your lawyer will assess that you have a poor chance of winning at trial.  However, even in that situation, you should decide whether or not to take your case to trial based on the deals that have been offered to you to date.  If you were offered an alcohol school plus thirty days in jail, and your lawyer tells you that you would likely not get jail if you went to trial (based on experience with the judge, the court, or the facts of your case), you may want to take your case to trial, to get a “better deal”.

That is where you will need to be heavily involved in your case.  While a DUI lawyer can give you all you need to empower yourself to make the decisions about what is best for you, measure the risk of each decision involved, and agree on a strategy or come up with a long term solution that you can live with, and that meets the goals that you and your attorney originally set up at the beginning of the case.

9.  How Not to Get a DUI: Get a DUI Lawyer.

Association California DUI Lawyers

Do I need a lawyer?  Although this may seem like a biased opinion, you may, or may not.  An experienced Orange County DUI lawyer, during a free consultation, can review the basic facts of your case and see if a lawyer would make a difference for the long term future of your case.  Lawyers have a duty of honesty to you, and if a lawyer can’t help, they should truly let you know that and come up with solutions for you so that you can feel comfortable handling your case yourself, or can offer to handle court appearances or negotiating a plea bargain for much lower than the full price of services through trial.

What really matters is that a lawyer who is specifically trained to handle DUI will know of defense strategies that even other attorneys don’t know about, and that you would not know about by even after reviewing the police reports yourself.  Just as handling your own IRS Tax Audit, or even doing your own medical diagnosis- you can do it yourself, but you usually get much better results when an expert handles the case for you.

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