The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has a duty to ensure the pilots and other safety-sensitive employees it certifies are properly trained and free of substance abuse issues that could lead them to operate an aircraft while impaired or affect an aircraft’s operation because of impairment. With so many lives at stake, the FAA must do its due diligence to investigate the history of pilots and others performing other safety-sensitive duties.
A conviction for driving under the influence (DUI) can affect your aviation career plans.
If you have been arrested for a DUI, contact an experienced Los Angeles DUI Attorney to help you fight the charges, keep your record clean, and protect your professional goals.
How Far Back Does the FAA Check for a DUI?
Your driving history, in its entirety, is taken into account when you pursue a career as a pilot. On the medical application, you must report
- Arrests or convictions for drug or alcohol-related crimes, which include DUIs
- Arrests, convictions, or other administrative actions for other incidents leading to the suspension or revocation of driving privileges or that required your mandatory attendance in a substance-use educational or rehabilitation program
Partnering with a Los Angeles DUI Attorney will ensure you fill out the required information appropriately and thoroughly. Your attorney will guide you through including the necessary details and outcomes to uphold FAA reporting requirements and serve your professional interests.
FAA Medical Clearance and DUIs
One step required for becoming a pilot is getting a certificate of medical clearance from an Aviation Medical Examiner (AME). Part of the AME’s comprehensive examination is investigating the applicant’s driving history for incidents of DUI. As the applicant, you must report any DUIs to the AME.
Your certification will probably be delayed or rejected if you have a DUI on your record. The burden will be on you to prove to the AME you do not have a substance abuse problem and have followed through on recovery.
Additional factors can cause further delays or prevent approval. For example, if your blood alcohol concentration (BAC) at the time of your DUI exceeded .15% or you refused to submit to a blood-alcohol test when arrested for DUI, the AME will probably defer your application to the FAA, and you will have to complete more paperwork and provide more evidence proving your sobriety.
DUI History and Medical Recertification
Pilots have to be recertified medically throughout their careers. So even if you are a pilot, any DUI incidents added to your history can affect that recertification.
Certifications are valid from six to sixty calendar months, depending on the class of the certificate (first, second, or third) and the pilot’s age. A certification’s “class” relates to the pilot’s responsibilities, for example, how many passengers they are transporting, whether they are transporting cargo (rather than people), or flying recreationally.
Guidelines for Aviation Medical Examiners Regarding DUI History
The FAAs guide for AMEs states that a single DUI episode does not automatically result in an applicant’s denial if there are “no other instances or indications of substance dependence or abuse.” The AME is instructed to inquire about the applicant’s alcohol use history and the specific circumstances of their DUI and document those details.
Guidelines for reporting those details vary depending on the circumstances of the DUI incident and apply to applicants and pilots who were issued DUIs during their careers. Conditions are categorized as follows:
- History of alcohol-related events or alcohol dependence
- Single event five or more years ago involving a BAC of .15% or higher
- Single event less than five years ago, or a single event at any time with an unknown BAC or refused a breathalyzer, or with a BAC of .15% or higher
- Two or more events in the pilot’s lifetime or history of dependence or substance use disorder
Your DUI History with the FAA
If you have a pilot’s license or are involved in a drug or alcohol-related motor vehicle action (MVA) after submitting your pilot application, the FAA has specific and strict rules for how and when you must report the incident to the FAA’s Security and Hazardous Materials Safety Office. You must report administrative actions, which include but are not limited to:
- Drivers’ license suspension, revocation, or cancellation for chemical test failure or refusal
- 10-day civil revocations (of driver’s licenses)
- Express consent or Administrative per se orders (suspensions for BAC of .08% or higher or chemical test refusal) or express
You have 60 days from the date of the incident to submit the letter. You must send a second notification letter upon subsequent convictions for DUI or other charges related to operating a vehicle while impaired. Again, you have 60 days to submit the notification.
Consequences for Failing to Report
The FAA takes this MVA reporting extremely seriously. Failure to report can lead to serious repercussions, including the following:
- Certificate, rating, and authorization denials for up to one year
- Certificate, rating, and authorization suspensions or revocations
When you get a DUI, your income and career are on the line. Get the legal protection you need by partnering with a Los Angeles DUI Attorney.
Though marijuana has been legalized in California and other states, the United States Department of Transportation (DOT) will not “exempt” tests that come back positive for THC, the psychoactive element in marijuana that creates the high.
Marijuana remains a drug included in Schedule I of the Controlled Substances Act, and under DOT policy, its use “remains unacceptable for any safety-sensitive employee” subject to the DOT’s testing regulations.
Do Not Let a DUI Destroy Your Career
Whether it is your dream to become a pilot or you have built a career as a pilot, you do not want a DUI charge to destroy that dream or derail your career. A skilled Los Angeles DUI Attorney can provide an effective, robust defense against these charges and mitigate their consequences.
Do not settle for inferior representation. There is too much at stake. Start moving forward by contacting a Los Angeles DUI Attorney today.