As a pilot himself, John Tymczyszyn is a criminal defense attorney who understands what a DUI can mean to those in the aviation industry. Pilots and others involved in the aviation industry have a lot at stake after a drunk driving arrest. On top of the criminal penalties, a conviction for a drug or alcohol DUI could disqualify you from holding certain jobs, FAA certificates or a security clearance.
A DUI arrest does not necessarily mean the loss of your job. However, to avoid mandatory reporting to the FAA, you have to act quickly. Also, if you are arrested for driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol in Washington State, you only have 20 days to request a hearing to prevent driver's license suspension.
What are the consequences of a DUI for pilots?
A drunk driving conviction, or even a DUI arrest, will have direct consequences for pilots. Under Federal Aviation Regulation 61.15, anyone holding an FAA license is required to notify the FAA of:
- Any drug or alcohol DUI;
- The cancellation, suspension, or revocation of a driver's license related to a drug or alcohol DUI; or
- Denial of a driver's license related to a drug or alcohol DUI.
In Washington state, your driver's license will be suspended automatically after a drunk driving arrest. Even before you ever get a chance to defend your criminal charges in court, the Washington State Department of Licensing (DOL) will administratively suspend your license for 90 days to 2 years. The only way to prevent an automatic suspension is to request a hearing within 20 days of your arrest.
Notify the FAA Within 60 Days
FAA certificate holders have to notify the FAA within 60 days of each motor vehicle action. This includes adverse actions related to a DUI conviction, license suspension for a DUI arrest, or license suspension for refusing a chemical test.
A pilot must report a DUI conviction or license suspension to the FAA through a “notification letter.” A notification letter must contain:
- Name, certificate number, and contact information of the airman;
- The type of violation that resulted in the conviction or administrative action;
- Date of the administrative action or conviction;
- State where the violation occurred; and
- Statement of whether it relates to a previously reported action.
Each adverse action requires reporting and a separate notification letter. For example, if a pilot's license is suspended for refusal to submit a chemical blood test, he or she is required to send a notification letter. Later, if the pilot is convicted for drunk driving, the pilot must send another notification letter, even if it is related to the previous license suspension.
Pilot Medical Evaluations
In addition to notifying the FAA, the FAA medical application requires reporting any arrests, convictions, or administrative actions affecting driving privileges that may raise questions about the applicant's fitness for certification. While a single DUI arrest may not be a cause for disqualification, multiple DUI convictions or other indications of substance abuse may result in medical disqualification.
Penalties for Failure to Report a DUI
Failure to report a DUI conviction or license suspension within 60 days is grounds for
- Suspension or revocation of the pilot's certificate, rating, or authorization; or
- Denial of an application for any certificate, rating, or authorization for up to 1 year.
While a DUI can threaten a pilot's license, trying to hide a DUI or failing to report a drunk driving conviction will almost certainly result in a suspension or revocation of the pilot's certificate. Like most states, Washington reports drunk driving convictions and license suspensions to the National Driver's Registry, which shares information between states and the federal government.
Do I have to report my DUI to my employer?
Some employers have a policy that requires employees to declare a drunk driving arrest or conviction. Other government clearance jobs in the aviation industry also have a contractual requirement to tell the employer about any arrests, including a DUI. If you have any doubts about whether you should tell your employer about a drunk driving arrest, contact an experienced DUI attorney for guidance.
When your employer or job requires reporting a DUI arrest, you should generally inform your employer. There may be a number of other factors to determine whether you will keep your job, including whether you are convicted, if you have a labor contract, or the requirements of the job.
If you do not tell your employer about a DUI arrest or conviction, the employer may still find out about it. Lying about a DUI arrest or trying to cover it up generally makes things worse. A DUI arrest, conviction, or even alcohol-related license suspension are likely to show up in a background check.
In the past, an employer may never find out about a DUI that occurred after an initial hiring background check. However, more employers are also using continuous, post-hire background screenings. This is especially common with defense contractors or employers in the aerospace industry.
How does a DUI affect my security clearance?
A DUI will not necessarily mean a loss of your security clearance, especially without other indications of an alcohol problem. Under Federal Regulation 147.9 Guideline G, excessive alcohol consumption can lead to questionable judgment, unreliability, and increase the risk of unauthorized disclosure of classified information due to carelessness. Conditions that could raise a security concern include a DUI.
However, conditions that mitigate security concerns include:
- Alcohol-related incidents do not indicate a pattern.
- The problem occurred a number of years ago and no indication of a continuing problem exists.
- There have been positive changes in sober behavior.
- Following diagnosis of alcohol abuse, the individual sought treatment or rehabilitation.
On the other hand, lying about a DUI will very likely lead to the loss of your security clearance. Any lie on a security clearance application will prevent you from getting security clearance and could even result in criminal prosecution. If you have any questions about how a DUI will affect your security clearance, talk to an experienced aviation DUI attorney.
Bellevue Aviation DUI Defense Lawyer
The greater Seattle area of King and Snohomish County is home to a number of aviation and aerospace industry companies, including Boeing. A DUI can be stressful for people in the aviation industry, especially those with FAA certificates, security clearance, and strict background checks.
A drunk driving arrest can threaten your job and even your livelihood. John is a third generation Washingtonian and Navy Veteran who has represented thousands of clients in the greater Seattle area. Contact John today for a free consultation on your DUI case.