The 8500-8 is the FAA's medical history and physical examination form. Question 18(v) has caused airmen more aggravation than most other questions on the FAA medical history. This is the question that asks for a “yes” or “no” response if the airman has a history of any arrests, convictions, and or administrative actions involving driving while intoxicated by, or while under the influence of, alcohol or a drug. An improper response to this question results in the No. 1 enforcement action in the FAA legal realm!
An airman must notify AMC-700, FAA's Security Division in Oklahoma City, within 60 days of a conviction, suspension, or administrative action regarding driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs, according to 14 CFR 61.15(e). In those cases, airmen must also check “yes” to question 18(v) at the time they complete their next online medical application. Be sure to read the small print above the final signature block on the medical history side (item 20). By “signing” the form with your email address, you are verifying that everything you have indicated on the form is true and correct, and you are granting the FAA permission for a single search of the National Driver Registry. The National Driver Registry is a clearing house of driver information that compiles DUI arrests. When the medical application is processed at the FAA and there is a report of a DUI on the application, the file is matched against the 61.15 security database. If there is a positive “hit,” indicating that the FAA Security Division in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, was not notified within the 60-day time period, the FAA will take action against all of the pilot’s certificates.
Pilots who have been arrested and undergone a field sobriety test along with a breathalyzer request should obey both of the above requirements. This is true even if the pilot ultimately seeks legal advice and the police reduce the offense. Information floating around the aviation grapevine suggests that pilots have been told that if they are arrested for suspicion of DUI, they should “refuse” to submit to breathalyzer testing. This is not good advice, as the FAA looks at a “refusal,” as equivalent to a DUI!
When an applicant initially responds “yes” to 18(v), the aviation medical examiner is instructed to require the airman to provide a copy of the arresting officer's report as well as any other court documents. If the blood alcohol level is available, include that as well because the FAA will require it.
If the blood alcohol level was 0.15 percent or above, the AME must defer issuance of the medical certificate and the airman will be asked to provide a substance abuse evaluation. This can be performed by anyone from a licensed counselor up to a psychiatrist who has a sub-specialty in addiction medicine. If the evaluator determines that the airman does not have a substance dependence or abuse problem, the medical certification folks will clear the airman and issue the medical certificate. If the evaluation suggests other problems, additional evaluation will be needed before the FAA can determine the airman’s eligibility for certification. The FAA medical folks maintain a database, and they know exactly how many events an airman has. The more substance-related legal actions, the more involved the evaluation.