DUI and the FAA
Since 1996, the FAA has been interested in knowing if pilots holding an FAA issued Airman Certificate (pilot's license) were involved in a DUI, whether criminally or through some action against their driver's licenses. Pilots are required to comply with the rules set out in 14 CFR 61.15(e) relating to the reporting of "motor vehicle actions" which involve court convictions or suspension of a driver's license. Pilots have also been required to disclose such things on their Application for Airman Medical Certificate. A failure to meet either of these obligations will normally lead to worse consequences than the DUI itself, particularly in the case of a 1st offense DUI with a blood alcohol concentration less than .15%.
About a year ago, the FAA added a new requirement on its Application for Airman Medical Certificate that is of importance to not only pilots accused of DUI offenses, but also pilots who are arrested by the police for any offense at all.
All U.S. certificated civilian pilots are required to make reports to the FAA when they are convicted of a DUI offense or have their driver's license suspended as a result of a DUI offense. That obligation remains unchanged. As well, pilots have historically needed to disclose those events on their Application for Airman Medical Certificate in block 18.v. of the application.
The FAA recently changed the requirements of 18.v. to include not only the previously required items, but to add the requirement of disclosing any arrests, apparently even if those arrests did not lead to a conviction or if the criminal charge is still ongoing.
It is reasonable for the FAA to be interested in those convicted of alcohol related offenses as those events may have a bearing on an individual's ability to safely operate an aircraft. However, many arrests occur daily in the U.S., for DUI or otherwise, that end up being dismissed in court for various legal reasons. Those arrests are essentially nullified through ongoing investigation and legal decision making by the courts and lawyers. There seems to be no legitimate reason for the FAA to be interested in mere arrests when there has not been any conviction associated with that arrest, whether for a charge of driving under the influence or otherwise.
Attorneys representing pilots for an alleged criminal violation need to be aware that the rules have changed and possession of a valid medical certificate depends on proper disclosure of this new information. And remember that failing to make the new disclosure can lead to revocation of flight privileges.