For most folks a DUI can have very severe consequences, however if you are a pilot the ramifications can be devastating. Top California DUI Lawyer Matthew Ruff has over 25 years defending airmen and commercial pilots on drunk driving charges and DMV suspensions stemming from a DWI arrest. The arrest can be very worrisome and scary for a pilot due to the stress of the possibility of losing his or her job and career. Matt understands this and fights the underlying driving under the influence charge in criminal court and at the CA Department of Motor Vehicles. In order for Matthew to fight both cases effectively, he must be hired early in the case. If a pilot waits too long to hire an attorney, he or she may prejudice the case and decrease the chances of saving their pilot’s license with the FAA.
Pilots are required to report the incident in a variety of ways. There are three primary reporting obligations, and something the pilot will need to start in certain cases.
- A Pilot needs to report any administrative license sanction based on operation of motor vehicle (suspension, revocation, or other deprivation of driver’s license/driving privilege) within 60 days of date of ALS to Civil Aviation Security in Oklahoma City. If ALS happens on arrest, that starts the clock, even if later stayed by court or licensing agency.
- The Pilot needs to report DUI conviction within 60 days of date of conviction to Civil Aviation Security in Oklahoma City.
- The Pilot needs to report the fact of a DUI arrest on AME exam (Airman’s Medical Exam), regardless of whether any thing happened after the DUI arrest (case rejected, diversion granted, no charges filed, tested under legal limit, blood tests returned .00 on everthing).
Each report is independent of other reporting obligations.
As a practical matter, once FAA (Civil Aviation Security in Oklahoma City or FAA Flight Surgeon/Medical) becomes aware of the DUI arrest, pilot clients typically go into FAA limbo where FAA lets pilot know FAA can’t “establish your eligibility to hold an airman medical certificate at this time” based on the answers to AME questions or reporting of ALS or conviction. FAA will require a response to determine eligibility to fly. If, and only if, it is a pilot’s first DUI in his or her lifetime, and airman submits to the chemical test, and chemical test results are below .15, airman’s AME examiner will be able to issue the airman’s medical certificate at time of AME exam so long as airman supplies all the information listed on the attachment to the AME physician. As such, make sure you have this available.
If it is a pilot’s 2nd DUI in their lifetime, and/or if airman tested .15 or above, and/or if airman refused chemical test, airman will “need to submit complete copies of a current Substance Abuse Psychiatric evaluation performed by a Human Intervention Motivation Study (HIMS) psychiatrist, in accordance with the psychiatric portion only of the enclosed specifications. Please note that the evaluation must address your complete alcohol related history of usage and all offenses, and should include copies of all testing performed with a final diagnosis. All materials provided to FAA must also be provided to and commented on by the HIMS psychiatrist.” This psych evaluation isn’t quick, and if pilot has an ATP license (which requires an AME exam every six months), the pilot needs to start building his or her file and working on the psych evaluation to avoid a lapse in the license.
So what should a Pilot do if he or she has been arrested for DUI in California? First, understand that your driver’s license will be suspended administratively unless immediate action is taken to stay the suspension through the DMV. If you ignore the APS and your driving privileges are suspended that triggers a reporting requirement, even before you go to Court. Call Matthew immediately so he can stop the suspension from going through.
What about a charge reduced to a “wet reckless” ? The short answer is a plea to any reduced charge other than DUI or driving above the per se level is going to put the pilot in a better position to defend their pilot’s license with the FAA. However, even if the DWI is reduced, if the airman loses his or her drivers license at the CA DMV reporting is mandatory. Therefore, an aggressive two-part strategy is essential in order to put the pilot in the best position to keep flying.
A DUI can be a life changing event for many commercial pilots. California DUI Attorney Matthew Ruff has over 25 years defending driving under the influence cases for clients. Matt can be reached on his cell at 310-686-1533.