When you are convicted of a DWI, the consequences are always disruptive to your life and career. You face the loss of your freedom with the potential of a jail sentence, and you could lose control of your own mobility if your driver's license is suspended. The cost of a DWI can be expensive as well, between attorney fees, licensing fees, fines, and court costs.
But those consequences are only part of the story if you are a licensed pilot. Whether you fly recreationally or commercially, a DWI conviction can cost you your pilot's license. And if you have yet to qualify as a pilot, a DWI could keep from ever being licensed to fly. Luckily, help is available. An experienced DWI defense attorney may be able to fight the charges and potentially avoid a conviction. However, your best chance at avoiding a conviction improves if you follow a few important steps.
What to do if Arrested for DWI in Harris County TX
The outcome of your DWI trial isn't set in stone from the moment you are arrested. In fact, all of the evidence the prosecutor will use against you will be gathered after you have already been pulled over. Unfortunately, that leads to ample opportunity to make your situation worse. Remember, anything you say to the police or do in their presence can and will be used against you in court. By following these steps you give yourself the best chance at a positive outcome.
Don't Speak to the Police
The very first question out of a police officer's mouth after a traffic stop is typically “do you know why I pulled you over?”
Did you know you don't have to answer that question? Every question from a police officer is designed to build a criminal case against you. Even asking about the reason for your stop is designed to elicit an admission from you that you made some kind of moving violation. Thankfully, you aren't required to take part in any interrogation from the police. Use your right to remain silent and don't answer their questions
There are only limited circumstances where you are required by law to answer a police officer, and it is when they request basic identifying information from you like your name, address, and a copy of your driver's license. Refuse to answer any questions outside of complying with these basic requirements.
Stay Polite and Be Truthful
While you shouldn't answer questions from the police, that doesn't mean it is a good idea to be hostile. Staying polite will keep law enforcement from treating you unfairly and can even help prevent police misconduct.
Likewise, never lie to the police. The only information you should give them is identifying information like your name and address; lying about these facts is actually a criminal offense in the State of Texas.
Report to the FAA
The first question you probably have is “Do I have to report my arrest to the FAA?” And while the answer is technically no, you will likely be required to disclose the DWI arrest to the FAA before you have a conviction. That is because the FAA requires pilots to report criminal convictions or administrative actions within 60 days of a final decision, and you will likely get a final decision on the status of your driver's license suspension before your criminal case is concluded. You have 60 days from your suspension officially going in effect to notify the FAA, and it is important you comply with all reporting requirements if you want to keep your pilot's license.
Hire a Board Certified DWI Defense Expert
The worst mistake you can make is trying to take this on by yourself. DWI cases are defensible, and an experienced Texas DWI defense attorney can help build the strongest defense possible. The best, most experienced DWI defense attorneys are Board Certified as experts in the field, and hiring one of these experts can be the difference getting the result you want or not. Board Certified experts:
- must have proven experience in DWI defense, and accompanying that proven experience follows invaluable insight; and
- 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.
When should I worry about a DWI conviction in Houston Texas?
In short, a DWI conviction is never good for a pilot. DWI's and pilot licenses don't mix, but the consequences you face are certainly more severe if you have more than one DWI conviction. Airmen are required to obtain clearance from an aviation medical examiner as frequently as every six months, and one reason a pilot's license could be flagged is for substance abuse issues. A DWI conviction is a major red flag for a medical examiner.
First DWI Conviction
You won't face an automatic suspension of your pilot's license upon a first conviction for DWI. However, if your DWI meets certain conditions, the aviation medical examiner will be required to hold up your license until the FAA can consider your case. These conditions include:
- 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.
While it's not guaranteed, if you comply with all FAA requirements you have a chance to maintain your pilot's license. Knowing how to legally maneuver within the confines of FAA regulations is something you should do only with a lawyer who is qualified and experienced in representing pilots with FAA reporting and issues.
Second or Subsequent DWI Conviction
A second or subsequent DWI conviction is a far more serious issue in the eyes of the FAA than a single conviction. That is because multiple DWI convictions suggest to the FAA that you have a substance abuse problem, and a substance abuse problem is one of the most serious issues that a pilot can face. To keep your license, the FAA will require documentation from medical providers to show that your use of alcohol is not habitual.
Even with documentation on your side, the chances of having your license suspended or even revoked are high. The best way to prevent a suspension or revocation is to avoid a conviction altogether. The idea of a DWI trial may be daunting, but it represents your best chance at avoiding a conviction and keeping your pilot license. This is why you should always consider a DWI defense attorney's trial experience before hiring them. Many defense attorneys are content to convince clients to take a quick plea bargain and move on to the next client. But if you have a pilot's license you rely on, the prosecutor offering you a plea bargain isn't in the position to make any promises about your pilot's license. An attorney that is always prepared for trial can go a long way in obtaining a positive outcome in your DWI case.
Failure to Report a Conviction
Upon conviction of a DWI, it may be tempting to avoid reporting it to the FAA. After all, the FAA is a large organization; they must miss things like this right? Wrong.
The FAA obtains the driving records of all pilots each time a routine medical examination is done, and these records will reflect your DWI conviction. Trying to pull a fast one on the FAA will likely only make your problems worse, as a failure to report a conviction is grounds for a suspension or revocation on its own.
Remember, the FAA reporting requirements mandate that you send a Notification Letter within 60 days of your DWI conviction or your driver's license being suspended for DWI, whichever is sooner. If you fail to request a hearing to dispute your license suspension that means the 60-day clock will begin to run within 30 days of your arrest.
A Houston DWI Defense Attorney That Will Keep You in the Cockpit
A DWI arrest doesn't have to be the end of your flying career. Successful DWI defense attorneys frequently prevail in Houston DWI trials, and it's possible you can avoid a conviction entirely. The key is to hire an experienced DWI defense attorney right away. Attorney Doug Murphy is a Board Certified expert in both DWI defense law as well as criminal defense law. In fact, he is one of only two attorneys in the State of Texas to be dual-certified. These certifications show that the Doug Murphy Law Firm, P.C. is your best bet if you have been arrested for DWI in the Houston area.
Doug Murphy is a fearless trial attorney that isn't afraid to advocate for his clients. He approaches every case as if it will result in a jury trial, and his results speak for themselves. To discuss your case with one of Houston's most qualified DWI defense attorney, contact the Doug Murphy Law Firm, P.C. for your free consultation.