What Happens When A Pilot Gets A DUI/DWI?

If you drive under the influence you will be faced with consequences, but if you are pilot, those consequences could end your career.

Getting a DWI or a DUI can be a serious offense for anyone, but pilots have even more to worry about. The law regarding DWI’s and DUI’s for pilots is a bit complex, and the best thing to do is to talk to an attorney you trust about your circumstances as soon as possible.

The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) examines each case on a case by case basis, so it is very difficult to give a clear answer about whether or not you will be able to get or keep a pilot’s license after receiving a DUI or DWI. They take a number of factors into consideration, including the number and frequency of alcohol and drug related offenses the pilot has and the severity of these offenses.

When faced with the problems and complications that come from getting a DUI or DWI, some people think that the best course of action is to refrain from reporting the arrest. This is the worst thing a pilot can do, because the FAA will eventually find out about the arrest, and hiding it can lead to more severe complications.

Most notably, because pilots are required to report a DUI or DWI to the FAA, failure to report has specific, automatic consequences, which usually means a 30 day suspension.
The FAA periodically checks the database that these arrests are reported to, and each time it finds one will check to see if that arrest was reported in a timely manner. The best thing to do is to be proactive by reporting the DUI or DWI and finding a competent, capable attorney.

Typically, pilots don’t lose their license for a first offense. But there are a wide variety of circumstances that can change this, including whether you have your license already or are waiting to get it, among other things. The FAA will also want you to be able to prove that you don’t have an alcohol or substance abuse problem. If this is your first impairment related offense, this will be a little easier to prove, but it is still important to consult an attorney.

You may still get a suspension while the FAA waits for the judge to make a decision, or if you are waiting for the FAA to issue you a medical certificate, it may be delayed for some time. This does not mean that you will not be able to fly in the future. It just means that you may not be able to fly in the immediate future.

The best thing you can do as a pilot is to report the offense immediately to the proper officials in the FAA and to find a competent and capable DUI attorney who has experience with both DUI/DWI’s and FAA laws and regulations. Your attorney can help you make sure the offense is reported properly and help you build a case that will minimize the long term negative effects of your DWI/DUI.