Pilots facing charges for a DUI or any related offenses in California may face serious consequences that equally affect their ability to fly both privately and commercially if they lose a pilot’s license. With a DUI conviction on your rap sheet, not only do you have to deal with law enforcement and the DMV, but also the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA). Attorney Don Hammond explains what happens when pilots get DUIs and offers insight on how they can get their pilot’s license back.

FAA requirements

Under FAA regulations, all pilots are required to send a notification letter to the FAA within 60 days following their DUI conviction. An offender is also required to notify the FAA of each event related to the offense. This may include any reported administrative actions like failing a chemical test, refusing to take a chemical test, license suspension, or a DUI arrest. But you’re probably wondering; if I don’t report it, they won’t know about it. 

Not quite. Unfortunately, when a pilot is booked and arrested for a DUI, the FAA is automatically notified when his/her fingerprints are run through the LiveScan Database. Moreover, failing to inform the FAA promptly can be used as an aggravating factor that could only amplify any disciplinary actions against you. 

Keep in mind that reporting to the FAA doesn’t necessarily mean an automatic suspension of your license. If you reported in a timely manner, you have no prior DUI convictions, and there are no conflicting reports, your flying privileges are likely to remain intact. 

What steps can I take to get my license back?

  • Expungement

If you already hold a professional license and have a DUI conviction, it is in your best interest to speak to a California defense attorney with experience in expungement. An expungement doesn’t always mean that you’re protected from administrative actions on your license. The FAA still has the discretion to decide who gets to keep their license, even if their conviction has been dismissed. However, an expungement can certainly prove to the FAA that you’re rehabilitated and deserve a second shot. An experienced expungement attorney with the skills and qualifications we discussed in our “What Makes a GREAT Expungement Lawyer?” article can help you fight for your right to practice in your field again. You can read more about expungement qualifications in our  “Can a DUI be Expunged?” post.

  • Appeal the revocation

If the FAA revoked your license, you still have the chance to appeal your case after a period of time. With the help of your attorney, you can appeal to get your license reinstated as your right to due process. You can also appeal to the NTSB if the FAA’s decision was not favorable. An appeal to the NTSB will be a trial without a jury before an administrative judge. During this trial, the FAA must also prove its case against you, and you will be allowed to bring forth any eyewitnesses and evidence for your case. 

If your trial is successful, you will also need to undergo a series of tests to begin your recertification process. This may include a series of tests with the Aviation Medical Examiner, knowledge tests, Instrument Airplane and Airline Transport tests, and a few check rides with your flight examiner. Your flight examiner can then sign your logbook and endorse your certification, which can help you complete your registration with the FAA.  

We are prone to make mistakes that can change the course of our life, sometimes for the worse. If you or your loved one is a trained pilot with a revoked license, consider hiring a proactive and qualified California criminal defense attorney to help get your life back on track. Criminal Defense Heroes, P.C. understands the unique challenges of having a DUI conviction as a pilot and will work aggressively yet strategically to give positive results. For more information about Los Angeles DUIs and professional licenses, you can schedule a call with Attorney Don Hammond at +323-529-3660 or send an email to [email protected].

The DUI Attorney Don Hammond


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