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Grounded for Criminal Convictions

Can a Criminal Conviction for DUI or Drugs Ground My Flying Career?

For pilots and people in training to become pilots, a criminal conviction for a DUI or a drug offense can have lasting and devastating impacts on a flying career. Under the Federal Air Regulations, the FAA has some strict requirements that must be met in order to avoid permanent disqualification from flying after an alcohol or drug related criminal conviction. If handled promptly and correctly, a one-time mistake will not ground you forever.

Student Pilots, Pilot’s in Training who have not been previously FAA licensed.

In cases of a student pilot or a person who has not yet received their initial pilot’s license yet, and then they receive a criminal conviction based on an alcohol or drug charge, the person cannot apply for a pilot’s license until after one year from the date of their last conviction.

Alcohol and drug-related offenses under the Code of Federal Regulations 61.15 include “growing, processing, manufacture, sale, disposition, possession, transportation, or importation of narcotic drugs, marijuana, or depressant or stimulant drugs or substances” as well as operating a motor vehicle under the influence of a drug or alcohol.

The FAA also requires proof that the person has completed any court-ordered alcohol treatment requirements before their application for a pilot’s license is approved. A person in this position can still receive training (both flight training and ground school) during their one year of ineligibility. They will, however, be unable to finish their final training and take their final private or sport license check ride until the year is up and they receive a medical certificate and their background application is approved by the FAA.

Persons already licensed as a pilot.

For indivuduals who are already pilots are convicted of a drug or alcohol-related felony, the FAA will either suspend or revoke their certificate for up to one year after the conviction. Furthermore, if the conviction results in a loss of the pilot’s motor vehicle driver’s license, the pilot will be required to self-submit a written report to the FAA no later than 60 days after the loss. The written report should include:

  1. The pilot’s name, address, date of birth, and certificate number;
  2. The type of violation that resulted in the conviction or administrative action which triggered the motor vehicle license loss;
  3. The date of the conviction or the administrative action;
  4. The State that holds the record of conviction or administrative action; and
  5. A statement of whether the motor vehicle action resulted from the same incident or arose out of the same factual circumstances related to a previously reported motor vehicle action.

Multiple Notices to the FAA May Be Needed.

The notification must be given each time the pilot has an action taken against them which results in a revocation or suspension of his or her motor vehicle license. For example, in a Washington State DUI case, most defendants face both a court suspension and a suspension from the state Department of Licensing. If the defendant has their license taken away by the DOL, they must notify the FAA right at that time about the suspension. After this, if they also receive a DUI conviction for which there is a court-ordered licensing suspension, the pilot must notify the FAA of that second suspension as well.

See Federal Air Regulation 61.15.