DWI and Applying for or Renewing Your Pilot's License in Texas

A DWI conviction carries with it both administrative and criminal penalties. The Texas Department of Public Safety (DPS) can suspend your driving privileges upon either refusal to submit to a chemical test after a request by a police officer, or failing a breath or blood test for your blood alcohol content (BAC) level. Suspension of your driving privilege is separate from your DWI case in a criminal court proceeding. A DWI conviction carries with it jail time or steep fines, or both, among other terms and conditions of your sentencing, including alcohol classes. Apart from these serious penalties, did you know you could also suffer collateral consequences to a DWI?

Many are unaware of the collateral consequences of a DWI conviction. Many find out the collateral consequences too late. Here, we discuss the collateral consequence of potentially losing your pilot's license. Maybe you fly for commercial or personal reasons. Either way, a DWI conviction is a serious problem, and your pilot's license could be revoked or suspended, depending on the circumstances. These kinds of consequences of a DWI conviction are the primary reason you must fight a DWI charge with experienced and competent counsel like Board Certified DWI Attorney Doug Murphy. Spending time in jail for a few days to a few months is serious, but losing your ability to do what you love, or carry and to provide for yourself and your family may prove far worse than jail or fines.  Doug Murphy represents pilots before all Texas courts and the FAA to make sure a DWI arrest does not cost them their pilots license and their career.

If you have been charged with a DWI offense or related offense, you need to hire a DWI criminal defense trial attorney immediately.

  • A Board Certified DWI attorney must have proven experience in DWI defense, and accompanying that proven experience follows invaluable insight.
  • A Board Certified criminal defense attorney must have proven experience in criminal defense specifically, and though DWI is a crime, having experience in other criminal areas lends a deeper understanding of the court system, including how the prosecution, judges, and juries operate.

Both experiences develop the attorney's strategic processes and inform his awareness of criminal proceedings. Finding an attorney Board-certified in both is extremely difficult in Texas because there are only two attorneys with this distinction. Doug Murphy Law Firm is home to one of the two attorneys.

With the high stakes of losing your pilot's license, you should not settle for anything else but fight the DWI charge. Doug Murphy will help you in that endeavor.

DWI & the Aviation Medical Certificate

To obtain a pilot's license, whether it is for recreational, private, or commercial purposes, you must first possess an aviation medical certificate. This certificate basically confirms you are healthy enough to fly safely. There are, however, a few instances that do not require an aviation medical certificate: students or pilots who seek to operate balloons or gliders, who only want to seek a sport pilot certificate so long as there is no known medical condition that may cause a safety hazard, or who are military pilots with proof in some cases of a military medical exam.

There are three different types of aviation medical certificates for which a person can apply, which one you apply for depends on what you intend to do as a pilot.

Aviation Medical Certificate Categories

  1. First Class Medical Certificate. If you intend to be an airline transport pilot, you must obtain a first class medical certificate. These certificates are valid for 6 months for pilots 40 years or older and 12 months for pilots younger than 40 years.
  2. Second Class Medical Certificate. If you intend to be a commercial pilot, you must obtain a second-class medical certificate at a minimum. Other personnel required a second-class medical certificate include flight engineers, navigators, and air traffic controllers. These certificates are valid for 24 months for pilots 40 years or older and 60 months for pilots younger than 40 years.
  3. Third Class Medical Certificate. If you are a student pilot, recreational pilots, private pilot or flight instructor, you must have at a minimum a third class medical certificate. These certificates are valid for 24 months for pilots 40 years or older and 60 months for pilots younger than 40 years.

Disqualifying Conditions

There are certain conditions that disqualify you for an aviation medical certificate, regardless the category. According to the FAA website Pilot Medical Questions and Answers, there are a number of disqualifying medical conditions. Two of these conditions include substance abuse and substance dependence. A DWI conviction can implicate you as a pilot with one of these conditions.

DWI & the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) Reporting Requirements

Pilots charged with a DWI always wonder if they have to report their arrest or if it's only a conviction that needs to be reported. The answer is not as simple as yes or no.

Aviation Medical Certificates

As you see above, a pilot must frequently apply or renew his or her Aviation Medical Certificate on a regular basis. On the application, whether you are a student pilot or 20-year veteran pilot, you must report DWI convictions. You do not have to report arrests or DWI offense charges placed against you. This means if your case is pending, you still do not have to report it; only upon conviction must you report a DWI or DWI-related conviction.

The problem lies therein: because you do not have to report your DWI arrest on your aviation medical application, many believe they do not have to report the arrest at all. The FAA, however, requires it.

FAA Reporting Requirements

If you recall, there are two things that happen upon an arrest for a DWI: an administrative hearing and a criminal proceeding. The two processes are completely independent of each other and require FAA reporting.

Administrative Hearing Reporting Requirements

You have 15 days to request an administrative hearing to argue against your driver's license suspension. If you do not request the hearing in due time, your driver's license will automatically be suspended. If you do request the hearing in due time, but lose your case, your driver's license will be suspended.

Upon driver's license suspension, you must report the DWI arrest and subsequent driver's license suspension within 60 days after your driver's license is suspended to the FAA Civil Security Division in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, not to the local FAA office. Thus, even though you have not been convicted of a criminal offense, you must still report the arrest to the FAA.

You do not have to report the DWI arrest until your driver's license has officially been suspended. Retaining an experienced DWI and criminal defense trial lawyer will help you in the fight against losing your driving privilege. If you win your case at the administrative hearing, you do not have to report the DWI arrest to the FAA.

Criminal Proceeding Reporting Requirements

The same holds true for a DWI criminal court process: if convicted, you must report the DWI conviction within 60 days to the FAA Civil Security Division in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, not to the local FAA office.

You do not have to report the DWI arrest or report the DWI court process while it is in the process; only a DWI conviction needs to be reported.

Reporting Suspension & Conviction

Both a driver's license suspension and a DWI conviction must be reported to the FAA within 60 days. This requirement results in two separate reports to the FAA, most likely at different times because the criminal process will take much longer than the administrative process.

With regard to reporting both the driver's license suspension and a DWI conviction, there are two things you should keep in mind:

  1. There is no rule advising what is proper procedure, but from general practice and experience, so long as your case (in either the administrative or the criminal process) is pending, including if a decision has been properly and timely appealed, you do not need to report anything related to the DWI.
  2. According to FAR 61.15(d), if you have two instances of a DWI conviction or driver's license suspension within 3 years, your application for an aviation medical certificate will be denied, or your pilot license will be suspended or revoked, whichever is relevant. That said, the two instances must be from two separate factual events. If therefore, you report a separate driver's license suspension and a separate DWI conviction arising from the same DWI arrest, it will only count as one instance within the 3-year period.

Consequence for Not Reporting Your DWI Arrest / DWI Conviction

Some students or pilots believe they can let a DWI arrest sneak past the authorities, but only in a very rare, random situation will that happen successfully. The FAA obtains driving records for medical applicants, and these driving records will provide driver's license suspension for DWI arrests.

If you fail to report either or both of your driver's license suspension or DWI conviction to the FAA Civil Aviation Security Division in Oklahoma City, your pilot's license could be suspended or revoked.

Things to Remember about a DWI & Your Pilot's License

There are a number of things already discussed and not discussed that you should keep in mind if you have a pilot's license or are a pilot student at the time of your DWI arrest.

First DWI Conviction

A single DWI is not necessarily a reason for an aviation medical examiner. If there is a DWI conviction, though, the medical examiner will have to defer your application to the FAA for review. There are certain conditions that would permit the medical examiner to approve your application without the necessary FAA review, but these conditions must all be present. There are also conditions that require FAA review before approval is given, even in cases on a single DWI conviction.

Conditions that Permit the Medical Examiner to Approve Your Application without FAA Review

  1. Your blood alcohol content level was below 0.15; and
  2. You did not refuse to provide either your breath, blood, or urine sample for testing; and
  3. You reported the DWI arrest timely and properly to the FAA; and
  4. You prove that you do not have a substance abuse or addiction problem by providing sufficient documentation within 14 days. If you are applying for your medical certificate for the first time and your DWI conviction was several years ago, and you have not had any related issues since that time, proving you do not have a substance dependency or addiction problem will be easier than if the DWI conviction was yesterday.

Conditions that Require FAA Review before Approval of Your Application

  • Your blood alcohol content was above 0.15.
  • You refused to provide either your breath, blood, or urine sample for testing.
  • You failed to provide necessary documentation within 14 days that confirm you do not have a substance abuse or addiction problem.
  • You have other arrests, convictions or corrective actions against you within preceding two years.
  • You have been arrested three or more times in your lifetime, or you have had two arrests, convictions or corrective actions against you in the previous ten years.

Second or Subsequent DWI Convictions

A second or additional DWI arrests and/or convictions are much more problematic than a single one. The FAA tends to view two or more as a habitual problem that indicates abuse or addiction. You must provide substantial documentation that proves you do not have an issue with abuse or addiction.

And remember: once you have one DWI conviction, it just takes one more to get your pilot license suspended or revoked. You must take a DWI arrest seriously if you have or want a pilot's license. Your future love of flying and future professional career are at serious risk. You must retain a Board-certified DWI and Board-certified criminal defense attorney to optimize your chances to prevent driver's license suspension or DWI conviction.

Board Certified DWI Defense Lawyer in Houston, Texas

At Doug Murphy Law Firm, our resources and capabilities are provided to uphold and protect our clients' rights. We have decades of proven experience and a reputation earned in the courtroom for successful results.

Attorney Doug Murphy is a Board-certified criminal defense lawyer and a Board-certified DWI lawyer who aggressively represents his clients and teaches other attorneys how to successfully defend the rights of their clients, too. If you have been charged with a crime, regardless if it is your first or subsequent offense, contact Doug Murphy online or at 713-229-8333 today. He will discuss the circumstances of your case with you and advise you how to proceed.

Contact Us Today

If you are facing DWI or other criminal charges in Texas, contact our office today to discuss your case, so we can begin working on your defense. Please provide only your personal email and cell phone number so that we can immediately and confidentially communicate with you.

Doug Murphy Law Firm, P.C.
902 Heights Blvd.
Houston, TX 77008
713-583-0205 (fax)