Flying Under the Influence

Flying Under the InfluenceA pilot who flies any aircraft, either commercial or private, under the influence of alcohol or drugs can be charged with flying under the influence, or FUI / FWI. Pilots who fly under the influence can be charged under federal and/or state law, and the potential penalties are severe. Anyone charged with FUI / FWI should consult with a California criminal defense attorney with experience defending flying under the influence cases.

The laws surrounding FUI / FWI are complex and challenging, because pilots must follow both state law and the Federal Aviation Regulations, or FARS, governed by the Federal Aviation Administration.

The FAA has outlined strict rules regulating the consumption of alcohol by crew members of any civil aircraft, either commercial or private. The agency prohibits anyone from acting as a crew member if he or she has consumed alcohol within eight hours of a flight, while under the influence of alcohol or drugs, or with a blood alcohol content (BAC) of .04 percent or greater. A pilot or crewmember who violates any of these provisions faces imprisonment, fines, and revocation of his or her pilot’s license.

Pilots operate under an implied consent law similar to the rules governing vehicles on the ground. Implied consent means that any pilot suspected of being under the influence of alcohol or drugs must take a chemical test upon request. A pilot who refuses a chemical test risks a substantial fine and suspension or revocation of his or her pilot’s license.

A drunk driving conviction also can jeopardize a pilot’s flying privileges. DUI / DWI convictions must be reported to the FAA via the pilot’s first-class medical application, and to the Civil Action Security Division in Oklahoma City. This notification must be made within 60 days of the Driving Under the Influence (DUI) conviction.

The pilot must also report any actions taken by the state as a result of the DUI conviction, such as a driver’s license suspension because of the pilot’s refusal to submit to a chemical test. Further, if the pilot’s driver’s license is suspended through DMV proceedings, this must also be reported to the FAA Civil Action Security Division in Oklahoma City within 60 days of the suspension.

Any pilot who fails to report either a DUI / DWI criminal conviction or a driver’s license suspension stemming from a drunk driving arrest risks further penalties. If the pilot’s driver’s license is suspended twice in a three year period, the FAA can deny an application for a pilot’s license, or revoke a current pilot license.

Because pilots face serious consequences from both FUI / FWI and drunk driving convictions, it is imperative to have competent legal counsel. An attorney experienced in drunk driving defense and aviation law can launch an aggressive defense and keep negative consequences to a minimum.

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