For obvious reasons, there are strict limitations on who can become a pilot. The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) requires more than just flight training and experience, however. The FAA also requires pilots to certify that they are in good health. This certification is known as the airmen medical certificate.
To obtain this certificate, you must pass an examination as well as submit your medical and criminal history. Not only will the FAA consider your health background, but they will also carefully evaluate any criminal history you might have. In some cases, a conviction for driving while intoxicated (DWI) could result in the revocation of your certificate.
While reinstating a revoked medical certificate is possible, the process can be challenging. Your best option in protecting your ability to fly is by avoiding a DWI conviction altogether. Houston DWI defense attorney Doug Murphy can help you fight back against a DWI charge and avoid the consequences a conviction can bring.
Offenses That Could Cost You Your Airman Medical Certificate
The application process for an airman medical certificate is not a one-time event. You are required to re-apply for the certificate regularly, and each time you must update your criminal history. Because of this, an alcohol-related conviction can cost you your ability to fly. Remember, this is in addition to any actions that are taken against your pilot's license following a conviction.
Because the FAA guidelines are created under federal authority and apply nationwide, they do not highlight specific state-level criminal convictions that could result in revocation of your airman medical certificate. While you are only obligated to report a conviction on your application for medical certification, the Guide for Aviation Medical Examiners states “arrest(s), conviction(s) and/or administrative action(s) affecting driving privileges may raise questions about the applicant's fitness for certification and may be cause for disqualification.” In other words, any alcohol-related conviction that comes with a mandatory license suspension could lead to a denial. If you voluntarily disclose that you have even been charged with these offenses, it could result in your certificate being denied or revoked. In Texas, these offenses include:
- Boating while Intoxicated
- Underage DUI
- DWI with a Child Passenger
- Intoxication Assault
- Intoxication Manslaughter
- Operating an Amusement Ride While Intoxicated
Keep in mind that while the certification process does not require you to report an arrest immediately, other FAA regulations do. Likewise, if the next time you go through the certification process you must answer in the affirmative that you have been arrested, convicted, or faced administrative action based on an alcohol-related charge. Given that your ability to fly is at stake, it is crucial that you move quickly in acquiring an attorney and building your defense.
Another important factor to consider is that this guide also mentions administrative actions. This includes the automatic driver's license suspensions that come with a DWI arrest. You are required to disclose an administrative suspension to the FAA even if you have not been convicted of anything.
It is crucial that you are truthful about these forms. While an alcohol-related arrest can be costly, falsifying your forms is far more likely to result in the revocation of your airman medical certification.
The good news is that the Guide for Aviation Medical Examiners specifically advises these doctors that a single DWI conviction should not otherwise result in the denial of a medical certification. That being said, a DWI in conjunction with other evidence of a substance abuse problem could be enough for you to lose your certification. The same is true if you are convicted of a more serious offense like intoxication assault or intoxication manslaughter.
Reinstatement After Revocation
Revocation of your airman medical certificate operates as if you were never granted one in the first place. In other words, it will not simply expire after a set amount of time. To fly again, you will have to go through the application process again. This will require you to show the examiner that you are not a safety risk. Going through substance abuse counseling is a common first step. If you comply with all reporting requirements and can show that you have made steps to address your drinking, you could see your certification reinstated.
Understanding how an alcohol-related arrest or conviction can impact your airman medical certificate is best shown through examples. Consider the examples below.
Tad wants to be a pilot. He has gone through all of the training and is only missing his airman medical certification. Before applying for the certification, Tad is arrested for DWI in Texas. He is released from jail and enters a plea of not guilty. The case is still ongoing when Tad receives his paperwork to request a medical certificate. When filling out the application, Tad must answer yes to the question of whether he has been arrested, convicted, or is facing administrative action that affects his driving privileges. Failing to disclose his arrest would qualify as a false statement on the application and put his certification at risk.
Jeff has a long history of alcohol abuse. A licensed pilot, Jeff is only a few weeks shy of his deadline to renew his airman medical certification when he is involved in a car accident while under the influence of alcohol. The other driver was injured in the crash, and Jeff is charged with intoxication assault. Jeff discloses the arrest when he applies for the renewal of his medical certification. Citing Jeff's history of alcohol abuse and the pending charges for a serious offense related to intoxication, the medical examiner issued a report recommending revocation of the certificate.
How a Houston DWI Defense Attorney Can Help
While there is an avenue to appeal your revocation or renew it after a period of time, this can result in serious disruption of your ability to fly. Your best option in protecting your rights is by fighting back against the underlying DWI charge. Beating these charges is possible, particularly with the right attorney on your side. Contact the Doug Murphy Law Firm, P.C., right away to discuss your options with a board-certified expert in DWI defense.