Learning to fly is a great experience, and for Georgia residents with a pilot's license, the freedom to take to the air is it's own reward. However, that freedom can quickly be ended by a simple DUI. The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) takes driving under the influence very seriously, which may result in a pilot's certification being suspended or even revoked.
DUI for Georgia Pilots
Even though Georgia DUIs generally involve motor vehicles, such as cars or motorcycles, getting a DUI on local streets can actually impact what happens in the air. For drivers who are also certified as pilots, the FAA takes drunk driving charges very seriously, requiring not only mandatory reporting, but also carries the possible penalty of alcohol treatment, certificate suspension, or even revocation of an airman's certificate.
Federal regulations require that pilots must send a Notification Letter to the FAA's Security and Investigations Division with 60 days of any motor vehicle action. This includes not only a conviction for a DUI, but any administrative action, including a suspended driver's license.
Reporting for Administrative Action and Conviction
One of the first things that happens after a DUI, is that the clock starts running for an automatic driver's license suspension. You only have 10 days from the time of arrest to request a hearing with the Georgia Department of Driver Services to challenge the automatic suspension. If you don't, then your license will administratively be suspended, and you will have to report the incident to the FAA, even if you are ultimately not convicted of a DUI.
The other thing that can lead to an automatic administrative action is if the driver refuses to take a chemical test when they are arrested. This is not the same as a field breathalyzer test, but only refers to a blood, breath or urine test that happens after a driver is arrested. Under the state's implied consent laws, refusal to submit to a chemical test when being arrested for a DUI will result in an automatic one year suspension. Again, this requires FAA reporting.
Additionally, if a driver is later convicted, they will again have to report the conviction to the FAA even if they already reported the administrative action. This may mean sending more than one Notification Letter to the FAA advising of the incident, but the FAA treats them as a single alcohol related event.
Failure to Report a DUI
Trying to cover up a DUI will be much worse than coming clean about the DUI. A pilot may think they can hide a DUI by not reporting it, but it will eventually be discovered by the FAA. States, including Georgia, report DUI incidents to the national driver's registry. During each pilot's medical evaluation process, the FAA will search the driver's registry, and discover the DUI, administrative action, or conviction. If the FAA was not properly notified of the DUI through a notification letter, and as disclosed in a medical evaluation, they will suspend or revoke a pilot's certification.
DUI Defense for Pilots
It is important to understand what a DUI can mean for your future as a pilot, as well as other aspects of your life. If you've been arrested for a DUI, contact a qualified and experienced Atlanta DUI lawyer to make sure you keep your license, and pilot's certification. Just because you or a loved one were arrested for a DUI does not have to mean a conviction. If you have been charged with driving under the influence, give me a call as soon as you can. We will talk about what happened, and how we can make sure you get the fair treatment you deserve.