No matter how much training and flight time you have logged, flying an airplane is not a right. To the contrary, there are countless steps you must take before you can legally pilot an aircraft in the State of Texas. Obtaining a pilot's license is only one part of these requirements. In addition, to satisfy the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) you must also obtain an airman medical certificate.
This certification process includes a thorough examination from an FAA-designated Aviation Medical Examiner (AME). This process includes more than just a physical examination. In an effort to determine your psychological fitness, the process also requires a review of your criminal record. If you have been arrested or charged with an alcohol or drug-related offense, it could put your application for a certificate in jeopardy.
A conviction or arrest for DWI might not guarantee the denial of your application, but it can add unneeded complication to an already complex process. To avoid these complications, it is in your best interest to fight the criminal charges you face. Houston DWI defense attorney Doug Murphy can help you fight back against these alcohol or drug related charges.
The Airman Medical Certificate Application Process
The process of applying for an airman medical certificate is fairly straightforward. It begins with the initial application provided by the FAA. Once you complete the application, your next step is to find and AME and schedule your appointment.
When you meet with the FAA-approved AME, they will take careful stock of your physical and mental condition. In addition to providing a physical, they will also review the documentation you provided as part of your application. This can include both medical records as well as information about any recent arrests.
If everything goes smoothly and you have provided all of the documentation the AME required, it is possible to obtain the certificate at the physical. However, if you are missing any documents or the doctor has additional questions, they might hold off on issuing you the certificate. If you indicate on your application that you have been arrested or convicted of a drug or alcohol related offense, the AME will likely require additional information before issuing a certificate.
Reporting Alcohol and Drug Offenses
There are dozens of questions that come with the initial application for your medical certificate. While most of them have to do with your medical history, one in particular relates to your criminal history. This question is known as Item 18.
Item 18 asks if at any point in your life you have had an arrest, conviction, and/or administrative action related to a number of criminal offenses. A subsection of this question specifically asks about DWI offenses or any charge involving intoxication from alcohol or drugs. The question also asks you to list any history of your driver's license being suspended due to an administrative action triggered by an arrest.
This means you must disclose more than just a conviction. If you have been arrested for a DWI or drug charge, you are required to list that on your application. The same is true for any administrative license suspension that results from a DWI or drug charge.
The failure to report an arrest, conviction, or administrative action might result in the AME issuing you a certificate, at least in the short-term. However, the FAA will review your criminal background check and eventually learn of your arrest or conviction. When they do, the end result can be worse than simply disclosing the arrest.
Discrepancies in your Application
If you do not answer truthfully, you might be contacted about revising your application. In some cases, the FAA will notify you that their background check has turned up records of your arrest, conviction, or administrative action. The letter will go on to offer you the chance to amend your responses to Item 18.
After finding a discrepancy, you will likely receive a letter explaining that your application was not denied but is currently on hold. You will typically wait at least 60 days for a response, which could eventually result in the denial of your application.
How Alcohol-Related Offenses Can Impact Your Application
Your criminal background is only one part of the medical certification process. There are no hard rules about a DWI conviction and your certificate, meaning your application will not be automatically denied due to your arrest. That being said, a DWI or drug arrest is a major factor that will be carefully scrutinized.
In and of itself, a first-time offense is unlikely to cost you the ability to obtain an airman medical certificate. In fact, the formal guidance for an AME does not require a denial of the certificate based on a single arrest. Instead, the focus of the AME will be on whether the DWI or drug arrest is a sign of an abuse issue. A pattern of addictive behavior is far more likely to raise red flags than a single arrest.
During the evaluation, the AME will likely inquire about your alcohol or drug abuse history. This will involve questions about your arrest and conviction in addition to any previous arrests for similar offenses.
Avoid a Conviction with a Houston DWI Defense Attorney
The complications from a denied airmen medical certificate are obvious. They can impact anyone from hobby pilots to professionals that need their license to make a living. Without your medical certificate, you can be grounded for months or longer.
A DWI or drug conviction does not guarantee the denial of your certificate, but it can make the process more challenging than necessary. To avoid the risk of losing your ability to fly, your best bet is to fight back against a conviction for DWI or drug possession.
Doug Murphy is a board-certified expert in both DWI and criminal defense law. An experienced litigator, he is known for aggressively taking on the government and winning these cases. Do not put your ability to fly at risk. Reach out to the Doug Murphy Law Firm, P.C. right away to discuss your defense.