Minimizing the Impact of a Michigan DUI on Pilot Licenses

Many people don’t realize that a drunk driving picked up on their “own time” can sometimes affect their jobs. This is particularly true for nearly anyone who carries a professional license, be it a pilot license, medical license, insurance license, real estate license or even a cosmetology license. In almost every instance the license holder must report the drunk driving arrest or conviction to the licensing authority, usually the Michigan Licensing Authority and Regulatory Affairs.  Pilots who pick up a drunk driving have very stringent reporting requirements, and a failure to report in a timely manner can be devastating.  With pilots however, it’s more of a federal issue rather than a state issue.

For the past several decades, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) had required pilots, that is anyone who holds an FAA license, to report each motor vehicle action (MVA).  This FAA reporting requirement includes even a first drunk driving arrest.  Because pilot licenses generally don’t expire, this reporting requirement holds true for both active and non-active pilots.

The FAA sets forth the following definitions of a MVA, all of which must be reported within 60 days:

  1. A violation of any federal or state drunk driving law.  This includes intoxication by drugs or alcohol, and includes any “less serious” offense, such as when an intoxicated driving offense is reduced to an impaired driving offense.
  2. Any suspension or revocation of a motor vehicle license for any intoxicated or drunk driving charge. This presumably includes a suspension for a violation of the implied consent laws, although implied consent is not specifically addressed.
  3. Any denial for an application for a driver’s license related to an intoxicated driving offense, including drunk and drugged driving offenses. This section applies when a person with a revokes license unsuccessfully attempts to regain driving privileges.

In certain circumstances the reporting requirement precedes a conviction.  This might be true for example when the driver license sanction for an implied consent violation comes before a conviction on the underlying drunk driving. The reporting of the motor vehicle license sanction must occur within 60 days of the suspension or revocation.

Just as with other licensed professionals, a pilot’s failure to report the drunk driving is far more damaging than the drunk driving event itself.  For example, a pilot’s failure to report one MVA incident will result in a 15-45-day suspension of the pilot license.  A failure to report two MVA actions results in a 90-120-day suspension, and a failure to report three MVA actions will result in a revocation of the pilot license.

It is important to note that once reported, a single drunk or drugged driving offense rarely becomes grounds to suspend or revoke a pilot license.  However, if there are two more MVAs occurring within three years of each other, then even properly reported offenses can cause suspension or revocation of the pilot’s license.

The FAA helps to assure compliance with the reporting requirement by also requiring subsequent or simultaneous reporting as part of obtaining medical clearance to fly.  Thus, being able to fly means having two things, a pilot license and a medical certificate.

The application for the FAA medical certificate also requires, as part of a medical history, that any drunk or drugged driving conviction be disclosed.  Because medical certificates expire after between six months and five years, it might take a while for the failure to report to catch up, but eventually it will catch up, the FAA will find out, and the FAA will s

uspend or revoke the pilot license for any failure to report within the prescribed 60-day period.

Consequently, following these reporting requirements appears to be the best way for a pilot to minimize the impact of a drunk driving or drugged driving arrest or conviction, or any driver license sanction arising out of same.

*Photo courtesy of Dmitrij.shpilchevskij

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