DUI refresher: What a pilot needs to do

I shouldn’t have to tell you this, but don’t drink and drive! I can’t tell you how often pilots who explain to the FAA the circumstances around their DUI event mention that they did not think they drank that much or they got pulled over close to their home.

Being stopped for a suspected DUI may result in a “motor vehicle action” that triggers certain FAA reporting requirements. Federal Aviation Regulation 61.15(e) states that an airman must submit a report to the FAA Civil Aviation Security Division not later than 60 days after a motor vehicle action, which includes the cancellation, suspension, or revocation of a driver’s license, as well as a conviction relating to the operation of a motor vehicle while intoxicated by alcohol or drugs. There is an online form that you can download and submit to the security division.

The other reporting requirement is Item 18(v) on your next FAA medical application. The application requires that the applicant must report any arrests, convictions, or administrative actions relating to operating a motor vehicle under the influence of alcohol or drugs.  Please take note that having your lawyer get the offense reduced or thrown out does not excuse reporting, because even if it does not lead to a conviction, the arrest for an offense involving driving while intoxicated by, while impaired by, or while under the influence of alcohol or a drug is reportable in the affirmative on the application. 

The FAA medical folks will then require your AME to obtain the arresting officer’s report, in addition to copies of the court records of your hearing. If your breathalyzer results are equal to or greater than 0.15 percent, you will need to provide a substance abuse evaluation. That will require you to locate a licensed counselor in substance abuse/dependence, or a psychologist or psychiatrist who has extra training in addiction medicine, and be evaluated. Depending on the results of the evaluation, you may be required to provide even more extensive (and expensive) evaluations. If your breathalyzer is less than the 0.15 percent, then you may need to do nothing else.

The FAA often also requests that you submit a “personal statement” surrounding the events leading up to the traffic stop and DUI arrest, including comments about your past and current alcohol/drug use. My personal advice is to be contrite in the letter. Do not be confrontational!

In all of these circumstances, the FAA medical folks maintain a record of how many DUIs you collect. Two DUI events within a three-year period will result in the requirement for an evaluation by an addiction trained psychologist or psychiatrist. Three DUIs in a lifetime is considered by the FAA to be a possible sign of alcohol dependence and will result in a denial of your medical application. In order to attempt to regain your medical certificate after that event, you will be required to obtain psychological and psychiatric evaluations by addiction trained specialists who are familiar with FAA policies; a certified true copy of all the driving records in states you hold licenses in; and a typed letter from yourself concerning your alcohol- or drug-use habits.

Concerning an airman’s refusal of an officer’s request to submit to a breathalyzer test, you should understand that the FAA considers this to be equivalent to a DUI when evaluating the number of DUI events in a lifetime. Furthermore, any refusal that results in a motor vehicle action under FAR 61.15 must be reported, and any refusal that results in an event described in Item 18(v) must be reported on the medical application.   

Correction:  An earlier version of this article included a statement that requests for an airman to perform a field sobriety test or a breathalyzer test are reportable on the Application for Airman Medical Certificate.  The author intended to convey that if such a request results in the airman’s arrest for DUI/DWI/etc., the arrest must be reported on the medical application even if the airman is not convicted of any crime or is convicted of a lesser offense.  

The article has been updated accordingly, and to reflect the standards for reporting as required by FAR 61.15 and Item 18(v) on the medical application.

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