Can a DUI Affect Eligibility for a Pilot’s License?

It's not unusual for the consequences of a DUI conviction to spread beyond the fines, jail time, and license suspensions that may be handed down by a judge. If you currently have or are considering applying for a pilot's license, a DUI conviction can hinder your chances of receiving and/or maintaining one. Here's more information about this issue.

Prior Convictions Matter for Applications

When applying for a pilot's license, you may be required to fill out the Aviation Medical Exam, which the FAA (Federal Aviation Administration) uses to determine the applicant's fitness for piloting aircraft. This exam asks applicants if they have ever been previously been arrested for, been convicted of, or received adverse administrative action for DUIs.

Anyone who has ever had a DUI must provide all the details about the event, such as when it occurred, the state where it happened, and the conviction. The FAA will check driving and criminal records to confirm the information. One DUI won't automatically bar you from getting a license, especially if you haven't had any other incidents since the conviction or arrest. However, if you fail to report the incident, the agency may deny your application or revoke any piloting license granted to you if it finds out about the DUI at a later date.

On the other hand, you may experience some trouble being approved for a pilot's license if you

  • have two or more DUIs on your record
  • had a BAC of .15 or more
  • refused chemical testing

The FAA looks at your record to help it determine how much of a risk it would be to let you be in charge of a giant flying machine carrying people and cargo. A pattern of DUIs or a record of refusing to adhere to blood alcohol testing laws may lead the agency to either defer approval of your application or deny it altogether over concerns that you may drink and fly or refuse to submit to random drug and alcohol testing.

The Impact of Current Charges and Convictions

All DUI charges, convictions, and administrative actions must be reported to the FAA within 60 days after they occur. This includes DMV license revocations and suspensions related to refusing chemical testing and exceeding state BAC levels. Although it may be tempting to do so, it's a bad idea to try and conceal a DUI from the FAA. The application for a pilot's includes a clause that allows the administration to access the National Driver Register to check on pilots. Failure to notify the agency about these incidents may lead the FAA to revoke your pilot's license if they find out about it during a random check.

Like with the Aviation Medical Exam, a DUI action won't automatically make you ineligible for the license, especially if the charges are ultimately dismissed. The agency is more concerned about a pattern of behavior. If you receive a certain number of arrests, convictions, or administrative actions within a certain time frame (e.g., 2 convictions within 10 years), the agency may pull your license. However, each case is generally considered individually.

Even if your license is revoked, it may be possible to get it back after awhile. You might have to wait a period of time before reapplying for a license (e.g. 1 year) and the agency may require you to undergo drug and alcohol rehabilitation or otherwise show you are not likely to get another DUI in the future before it will approve you for a new license.

If you're a pilot and you've been arrested for a DUI, it's critical that you work with an attorney to minimize the risk of losing both your pilot's and driver's license. For more information about this issue, contact an attorney from a firm like Hart Law Offices, PC.