Pilot DUI Arrest
A Pilot arrested for DUI/DWI risks certificate action by the FAA if the “vehicle action” is not reported to the FAA “not later than 60 days after the motor vehicle action.”
FAR 61.15(e) requires any person holding a certificate issued by the FAA (Which would include pilots and A&Ps) to give written notice to the FAA any “motor vehicle action” not later than 60 days after the motor vehicle action.”
Serious Consequences Beyond the DUI Arrest
Vehicle action is the operative phrase in the regulation and the failure to provide the required report within 60 days may have more serious consequences than the DUI arrest. FAR 61.15(f) provides that the failure to report is grounds for several sanctions, including: one, denial of an application for any certificate, rating such as an instrument or multi-engine rating for up to a year after the date of the motor vehicle action; two, suspension or revocation of any certificate, rating held by the pilot or such other covered person. As you can see, the sanctions for not reporting can be more serious than the action taken by the FAA for the actual DUI/DWI. The following is a link to the entire text of the FAR section.
The question is often asked whether the FAA will discover that a “vehicle action” occurred. Yes they will because all such incidents are reported to the National Driver Registry and the FAA has personnel whose only job function is to go over the data base comparing the names and cross referencing against the names of pilots. The FAA has the right to search the National Registry because a waiver of the pilot’s right to privacy for the disclosure of such information is required as a condition of obtaining a medical certification.
What is a Vehicle Action?
The question is what must be reported; or more specifically, what is a vehicle action. FAR 61.15(c) states that a motor vehicle action means: One, A conviction …for DUI/DWI involving the operation of a motor vehicle while intoxicated by alcohol or a drug, while impaired by alcohol or a drug, or while under the influence of alcohol or a drug; two, the cancellation, suspension, or revocation of a license to operate a motor vehicle... for a cause related to the operation of a motor vehicle while DUI/DWI by alcohol, drugs or a combination thereof; or three, denial... of an application for a license to operate a motor vehicle for a DUI/DWI while intoxicated by alcohol, drugs or a combination thereof.
When the report is filed with the FAA, the FAA will respond with a letter acknowledging the report and thanking you for your cooperation.
It is important to note that there may be two reporting requirements. For example, if your license is suspended under the Illinois Statutory Summary Suspension law (or similar law of another state) because you refused to take a breathalyzer test or you did take the test and registered an alcohol level of .08 or greater, the reporting requirement is triggered even if your attorney manages to rescind the suspension and your license was only suspended for several days. Second, if convicted of the offense of DUI, you must again report.
The effect of the reporting is that when you appear for your scheduled medical examination you must now check yes for question 18 v regarding whether ever arrested or convicted of an alcohol and/or drug offense.
The AIM will not be permitted to issue your medical certificate (as was allowed in the past). The issuance is now deferred and must be reviewed by the FAA Aeromedical Division which will likely want to review the arrest report, court documents and National Drivers Registry.
Representation and Getting Results
In representing a pilot in a DUI it is crucial to avoid any vehicle action (such as a suspension) and a conviction. The best result would be to beat the charge or in the alternative obtain a reduction of the charge to supervision for reckless driving. Notably, question 18 v seems much broader than the reporting requirements as it asks about an arrest, not whether there was vehicle action. Therefore, one may avoid the need to report and still have to suffer through a deferment if Medical Application question 18v is checked yes. However, absent vehicle action, it is likely that your name will not be in the National Drivers Registry.
It remains to be seen what the regulations will be in view of passage into law of the Pilot’s Bill of Rights II on July 15, 2016. Here is a link to the AOPA website.