What a DWI/DUI Means to Your Pilots License by Bo Kalabus

Pilot’s License and DWI

A DWI/DUI/drunk driving charge for a pilot can be as difficult and confusing as his or her first actual instrument approach to minimums….well maybe not that bad. But any pilot should be aware there are reporting requirements with the FAA that could have varying timelines depending on the facts of each case that should be understood or his or her pilot certificate could be put in jeopardy. Normally for all individuals a DWI/DUI offense is a two headed monster, but for a pilot it becomes a four headed monster.

Issues common to all charged with DWI

The first two hurdles that everyone charged with a DWI in Texas must work through are the DWI itself and the Administrative License Revocation proceeding (ALR). A DWI first offense in Texas, if there is a conviction, could theoretically result in a sentence of jail, a fine, both jail and a fine, and a driver’s license suspension of up to one year. Second, and one that most people don’t realize, is the DWI initiates a second civil case against them that directly affects their driver’s license–the ALR. The ALR proceeding begins when a person either fails or refuses a breath or blood test.

Issues specific to pilots charged with DWI

For pilots, there are two additional hurdles to clear which pertain to proper reporting to the FAA. The first involves what to report regarding the DWI and when to report it when the pilot fills out the application for his or her medical certificate during the pilot’s medical examination and the second pertains to reporting under 14 CFR 61.15(c).
Medical certificate application

For those unfamiliar, there are three types of pilot medical certificates, i.e., a first class that is good for six months, a second class that is good for 12 months, and, a third class that is good for twenty-four months. Moreover, all pilots must have a current medical certificate in order to be legal to fly. When a pilot re-applies for his or her medical certificate at the required time the pilot will have to respond to a question on the FAA medical application form that asks if the pilot has ever been convicted of a DWI/DUI. The key word on the medical application is conviction. A pilot charged with a DWI/DUI should consult with a lawyer on how to respond to this question depending on the facts of his or her case.

Reporting under 14 CFR 61.15 (c)

Separate and different than checking the “yes” or “no” box on the pilot’s airman medical certificate application following a DWI arrest is reporting under 14 CFR 61.15 which provides:

(c) For the purposes of …this section, a motor vehicle action means:
(1) A conviction after November 29, 1990, for the violation of any Federal or State statute relating to 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;

(2) The cancellation, suspension or revocation of a license to operate a motor vehicle after November 29, 1990, for a cause related to the
operation of a motor vehicle while intoxicated by alcohol or a drug, or while under the influence of alcohol or a drug (emphasis added);
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(d) Except for a motor vehicle action that results from the same incident or arises out of the same factual circumstances, a motor vehicle action occurring within three years of a previous motor vehicle action is grounds for:
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(1) Suspension or revocation of any certificate, rating, or authorization issued under this part.
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(e) Each person holding a certificate issued under this part shall provide a written report of each motor vehicle action to the FAA, Civil Action Security Division (AMC-700), P.O. Box 25810, Oklahoma City, OK 73125, not later than 60 days after the motor vehicle action.
The report must include:

(1) The person’s name, address, date of birth, and airman certificate number;
(2) The type violation that resulted in the conviction or the administrative action;
(3) The date of the conviction or administrative action;
(4) The State that holds the record of the conviction or administrative action; and
(5) A statement of whether the motor vehicle action resulted from the same incident or arose out of the same factual circumstances related to a previously reported motor vehicle action.
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(f) Failure to comply with paragraph of this section is grounds for:
(1) Suspension or revocation of any certificate, rating, or authorization issued under this part.

A pilot charged with a DWI/DUI/drink driving in Texas should consult with a lawyer on how to respond to the reporting requirements of FAR 61.15 based on the specific facts of his or her case. For a hypothetical example, a pilot charged with DWI must report to the FAA as described above in FAR 61.15 within 60 days of:

A DWI conviction or guilty plea; or

A driver’s license suspension due to refusal or failure of breath or blood tests if not appealed within 15 days of the suspension or following the loss of the ALR appeal if appealed.

Also, if the pilot reports on his or her medical certificate application that the pilot was convicted of DWI, the pilot will still have to report under 14 CFR 61.15 with 60 days of the conviction or driver’s license suspension to satisfy the feds.

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