Will I lose my aviation medical certificate If convicted of a DUI?

By Brock Benjamin
Founding Attorney

Recently, the co-pilot on a Japan Airlines flight was arrested an hour before the flight after he was found to be ten times over the legal limit for pilots.  The pilot later plead guilty to exceeding the legal limit and has been detained for sentencing. It is unclear what will become of the pilot’s license or career.  This Japan Airlines incident calls attention to the important issue of what happens when a pilot gets a DUI. Our El Paso aviation law attorney can discuss the consequences of a DUI for a pilot and how you can protect your aviation license post-DUI below.

Reporting Your DUI

The aviation industry is heavily regulated and pilots will need to answer to not just their company, but also the FAA.  Pilots convicted of a DUI could potentially find themselves denied an aviation medical certificate, which could cause loss of your pilot’s certificate.  Per FAA regulations, any pilot convicted,  arrested or involved in an “event” for a DUI has 60 days to report the occurrence to the agency. Any previous arrests or convictions for a DUI or DWI must further be declared during the medical exam.

Having a previous DUI does not automatically mean that you will be denied a medical certificate, but the arrests, conviction or administrative actions will be examined by the FAA.  Attempting to conceal a history of DUI is not advised as the FAA has the ability to find evidence of your criminal history. Failing to report a DUI to the FAA could result in revocation of your current medical certificate or pilot certificate by the FAA.

Effect of a DUI on Your Pilot’s Certificate

A DUI can potentially have an impact on your ability to fly.  The precise implications of a past or current DUI will depend on the circumstances surrounding your arrest and conviction.  If you have one previous DUI conviction in which your blood alcohol level was under .15, and you submitted to the breath test and timely reported the arrest to the FAA as required, your medical examiner may be permitted to issue your aviation medical certificate without any involvement by the FAA.  Even then, you will need to substantiate to the medical examiner that you do not have a substance abuse problem. The FAA is concerned that the event may be evidence of a substance problem.

However, if your DUI involved aggravating circumstances or you have multiple DUI convictions, you could be denied an aviation medical certificate.  Your application will be deferred to the FAA for decision. Any pilot who is concerned about their medical certificate should contact an aviation attorney for assistance.

About the Author
Brock Benjamin is board-certified in Criminal Law by the Texas Board of Legal Specialization.  His practice is primarily state and federal criminal law and appeals.Brock 

Posted in: DWI