Penalties for DUI/DWI Offenses Involving Operation of Aircraft

A state may enact a statute rendering it unlawful to operate an aircraft while under the influence of intoxicating liquors, or in such a careless and reckless manner as to endanger the life or property of another. These statutes will also impose penalties, typically a fine and potential incarceration. Such statutes are strictly enforced, and any conviction can be later used to enhance a charge of operating a motor vehicle while intoxicated.

Federal Aviation Regulations (FARs) prohibits pilots from flying aircraft with an alcohol level of 0.04 percent or more, and/or within eight hours of consuming alcohol, and/or while under the impairing influence of any drug. The FARs direct that crewmembers submit to a test to indicate the alcohol concentration in blood or breath upon the request of a law enforcement officer, including an officer authorized under state or local law to conduct the test when the officer suspects a violation of local law governing this type of conduct. Pilots found to be in violation of regulations may lose their pilot certificates and/or be subject to potential criminal prosecution under state or federal law. Provisions are also made for rehabilitation programs.

FARs require reporting a “motor vehicle action” not later than 60 days after the motor vehicle action is taken. A motor vehicle action includes a conviction 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 or 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 intoxicated by alcohol or a drug, or while under the influence of alcohol or a drug. When the pilot deals with both a DUI conviction and an administrative license suspension in the same case, both incidents must be reported within 60 days. If a pilot reports a motor vehicle action, it will automatically trigger a review of the pilot’s file to determine if the pilot continues to be eligible for his or her airman certificate or medical certificate (a history of alcoholism). If a pilot fails to report even one conviction or administrative action, that is grounds for suspension or revocation of any pilot certificate or rating he or she holds. It is also grounds for denial of an application for a certificate or rating for up to one year after the date of the motor vehicle action.

New convictions or administrative license suspensions involving the pilot within a three year period can be cause for suspension or revocation of flying privileges. Drug-related arrests can create the same adverse consequences.

Copyright 2012 LexisNexis, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc.