Flying an airplane is a privilege, not a right. There are many hoops prospective pilots are required to jump through before they can take to the skies. The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) – an operating mode of the Department of Transportation – oversees the regulation of these pilots. Below we go into examples, however, we urge you to contact us so that we can determine the appropriate legal step for you in your given legal situation. What we write below is not legal advice, just a general overview of the ins and outs of dealing with FAA and DWI.
There is more that goes into a pilot's license that simply logging the correct amount of training hours. Pilots must have a clean health record and avoid certain forms of criminal conduct. This includes arrests or convictions for alcohol- or drug-related crimes.
There are steps you can take to defend your pilot's license following a DWI conviction. That said, your best option is to fight back against a DWI conviction in the first place. Let a Board Certified DWI attorney Doug Murphy evaluate your case and advise you of your options.
Mandatory Disclosure of Alcohol and Drug Offenses to the FAA
The FAA regulations that come into play following a criminal arrest or conviction are complex. Unfortunately, this means the question of whether or not you must notify the FAA following a DWI arrest does not boil down to a simple yes or no question.
Being arrested for DWI or a drug-related offense does not necessarily require you to notify the FAA immediately. FAA Regulation 14 CFR 61.15 requires that you provide the FAA with notification following certain criminal convictions. However, this regulation does not require that you remit a Letter of Notification based on an arrest alone. Regulation 14 CFR 61.15 does require notification of a wide range of convictions, however. First and foremost, this includes a conviction for any DWI-related offense including intoxication manslaughter or intoxication assault. The same regulation also applies to drug offenses. They include any state or federal conviction for growing, processing, manufacturing, selling, possessing, transporting, or importing controlled substances. You have 60 days from the date of your criminal conviction to notify the FAA.
Although Regulation 14 CFR 61.15 does not require you to notify the FAA of an arrest, that does not mean you are in the clear. The FAA requires you to give notice after certain arrests when they involve administrative actions that threaten your driving privileges. In Texas, this specifically applies to the administrative license suspension process that comes with a DWI arrest. If an administrative action results in the suspension of your driving privileges, you must send a notification letter to the FAA within 60 days of the suspension. In many cases, this can occur long before you are ever convicted of a crime. If you are later convicted of DWI, you must send a second notification letter to the FAA despite it stemming from the same arrest.
These disclosures are important, as it is virtually impossible to keep the FAA from discovering your records. When you apply for your license, you submit forms giving express consent for the National Driver Register to release any driving record information to the FAA. This will result in the FAA obtaining your record without your notification eventually.
Consequences from Failing to Disclose
The consequences of failing to disclose your DWI or drug-related conviction or administrative action are steep. In fact, they are as severe as the conviction itself. You could be denied any certificate, rating, or authorization if you fail to comply with the 60-day notice requirement. That being said, if you notify the FAA after the 60 days but before they learn of the conviction on their own, they will use your late compliance as a mitigating factor for any penalty they assess.
What Happens after Disclosure
Once you submit your notice to the FAA, the Administration's Internal Security and Investigations Division will contact you via certified mail. This correspondence will inform you that they have received notice of the alcohol or drug-related offense and that is under review.
The Aerospace Medical Certification Division will review your case and will notify you that you may not be qualified for medical certification moving forward. You will also receive notice that the FAA will complete a thorough review of your qualifications to determine if you meet the standards for a medical certificate to fly.
A DWI conviction does not routinely result in an immediate suspension of your credentials. However, if you are not notified of the completion of your case review within 60 days, you may find yourself facing a legal enforcement action. This could result in the suspension of your license. This process could require much of the same information as a normal medical certificate application, but it is vital that you comply with their full request. One of the easiest ways to lose your license is to fail to comply with their investigation.
For an understanding of the notification process, consider the following examples.
Tad is a commercial pilot. After having a few drinks after a flight, he gets in his car and drives home. He is pulled over under suspicion of driving while intoxicated, where he submits to a breathalyzer. Based on his sample, he is arrested for DWI. Tad fails to request an administrative hearing after his arrest, and his driver's license is suspended after 30 days. Tad has 60 days from the date the suspension went into effect to notify the FAA of the license suspension despite not yet being convicted of a crime.
Consider the example above. This time, Tad requests an administrative hearing to fight the suspension of his license. He also pleads not guilty to the DWI charge and prepares for trial. Until he is either found guilty of DWI or his suspension is upheld at an administrative hearing, Tad does not have to notify the FAA of his arrest.
The Importance of a Houston Board Certified DWI Lawyer
If you are not careful, one misstep after a DWI arrest could cost you your pilot license before you are even convicted of a crime. To protect your license, it is vital you discuss your options with a Board Certified expert in DWI defense law right away. Schedule your free consultation with the Doug Murphy Law Firm, P.C. to get started.