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02

Nov,2015

DUI and the FAA: What Should I Do?

Navigating the treacherous terrain of a DUI and the FAA can be tough. Did you know that you could have your airmen certificate suspended or revoked for certain offenses related to driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol? Beyond that, the FAA can deny an application for any certificate, rating, or authorization in response to a DUI offense. The FAA’s consequences for a DUI will make you regret ever drinking something besides water. However, the following will walk you through a scenario in which you are charged with driving under the influence and give you a few pointers on the FAA’s requirements.

 

Let’s say you go out on Friday night with your friends and with the social mores what they are today, you decide to indulge in an alcoholic beverage. Maybe you end up having more than one drink, but you claim to feel “fine.” One thing leads to another and you find yourself behind the wheel of your car, trying to find your way home. This is when you get pulled over by the local police for swerving in your lane. The officers conduct a field sobriety test, which you fail, and it is determined that your blood alcohol is approximately .250. As a result, you are charged with a State statute prohibiting the operation of a motor vehicle while intoxicated/impaired by drugs or alcohol. In this situation, you should speak to an attorney as to how to handle the DUI on the State/criminal level. Nonetheless, for the purposes of understanding a DUI and the FAA, let’s assume that you hire an attorney and you end up being convicted of one charge of DUI.

 

What happens now? The FAA has very strict reporting guidelines when it comes to airmen being charged with a DUI offense. The answer to this question comes from 14 C.F.R. §61.15(e), which reads: “[e]ach person holding a certificate issued under this part shall provide a written report of each motor vehicle action to the FAA…not later than 60 days after the motor vehicle action.” Did you catch that? The FAA requires that 60 days after you the motor vehicle action, you must submit a written report to the FAA. You have to tell the FAA about your DUI!

 

Some people think they will outsmart the FAA. They say, “I just won’t tell the FAA and they will never find out.” Okay, let’s run that theory down for a second. You may get away with not telling the FAA for a little while, but they will always find out somehow. The likely scenario is that the information will come out when you go to get your next medical certificate examination, as Form 8500 (medical application) authorizes the release of your National Driving Record to the FAA. Keeping this information from the FAA is a BIG MISTAKE. 14 C.F.R. §61.15(f) states: “failure to comply with paragraph (e) of this section is grounds for…denial of an application for any certificate, rating, or authorization…or suspension or revocation of any certificate, rating, or authorization.” When the FAA finds out about the DUI and subsequently revokes your certificate because you failed to notify them, they will now beg you as a liar and will make your life much worse than it needs to be.

 

So let’s say that you report the DUI to the FAA within the 60 time period. What happens next? When you report the alcohol-related motor vehicle action, the FAA will initiate a preliminary investigation to ensure your report was within the required 60-day time frame and that there are no other reportable actions. This investigation may lead to a formal investigation where the FAA will consider either suspending or revoking your certificate or giving you a warning, etc.

 

There is one tip which may seem self-serving to all the FAA Enforcement and Aviation Attorneys out there, but is really the best piece of advice for airmen in this situation: hire an Aviation Attorney. An Aviation Attorney can help you draft your initial 60-day filing to the FAA with an eye toward protecting your certificate from a certificate suspension or revocation. Beyond that, a FAA Enforcement Attorney can help coordinate medical experts and preserve legal evidence from the DUI conviction, which may become relevant in a subsequent FAA Enforcement Action.

 

As soon as you are involved in a DUI situation, it is important to contact your FAA Enforcement Attorney. Getting your Aviation Attorney involved in the process early on is a good idea, as he or she can ensure that you get the appropriate counseling and evaluation in anticipation of a FAA certificate action. If you have questions about a DUI charge in Florida, or have questions about a DUI and the FAA on a national basis, feel free to call an Aviation Attorney at The Ison Law Firm. We are standing by to vector you through legal turbulence…call us at 863-712-9472 or e-mail to Anthony@ThePilotLawyer.com. 

22

Oct,2015

Do I Need A Pilot’s License to Get a Section 333 Exemption?

The first question most people seem to have about getting a Section 333 Exemption, is “do I need a pilot’s license to get a Section 333 Exemption?” This is an especially good question for people that want to use their drone for things like photography, real estate surveillance, agriculture, and filmmaking, because these folks typically don’t have a pilot’s license and consequently, they don’t want to go spend $14,000 on a private pilot’s license just to operate their drone commercially. The answer to the question, however, is that you DO NOT need a pilot certificate in order to OBTAIN a Section 333 Exemption from the FAA.  Nonetheless, the FAA requires that the person operating a drone under your Section 333 Exemption have at the bare minimum a Sport Pilot Certificate and a valid U.S. Driver’s License. This means that if you don’t have a pilot’s license, you can still get your Section 333 Exemption and then hire someone with a Sport Pilot Certificate to operate your drone for you. The following will outline your options if you don’t have a pilot’s license but still want to get a Section 333 Exemption for your drone operation.

 

First, you have to look at the economic and utilitarian side of going out and getting a pilot’s license. Do you have three to five months that you can dedicate to studying course material, taking lessons, and learning a new skill? Do you have the funds to get the license? Would having your license be useful to you in your personal life or business (other than for operating your drone)? If the answers to these questions are “yes,” you may want to carefully consider getting a pilot’s certificate for your Section 333 Exemption. And remember, you don’t have to have your pilot’s certificate at the time you send your Section 333 Petition to the FAA. Rather, you just have to have the certificate by the time you go out to operate your UAV as pilot-in-command.

 

So, if you decide that you DO want to get your pilot’s certificate, what is the most cost effective and efficient way to go about it for Section 333 purposes? There is an old wives’ tale out there that getting a Lighter-Than-Air Certificate (i.e. blimps and hot-air-balloons) is the fastest and most cost effective way of getting a certificate for Section 333 purposes. The ideology behind this theory is supported by the fact that a Sport Pilot, Lighter-Than-Air, Balloon, Certificate only requires 7 hours of training. While in some worlds this theory could be true, you will likely find that it is more difficult to actually locate a facility that can give out these types of certificates, let alone cheaply and quickly.

 

Nonetheless, if all you want to do is be legal while operating your drone and you are afraid that you won’t be able to get a FAA Medical Certificate, your best route is to get a Sport Pilot Certificate. The Sport Pilot Certificate for airplanes and helicopters requires a minimum of 20 training hours. The Sport Pilot rule allows a pilot to fly light-sport aircraft without the need for an FAA medical certificate. However, a sport pilot must hold at least a current and valid U.S. driver’s license in order to exercise this privilege. The caveat to obtaining a Sport Pilot Certificate is that there are a lot of restrictions placed upon operators with these certificates. In that, airmen with a Sport Pilot Certificate cannot go into certain airspaces, cannot fly at night, cannot carry more than one passenger, go faster than 87 knots, etc.

 

If you have a little more time to devote to training and a little more money to throw at the situation, you may be interested in obtaining a Private Pilot Certificate. The minimum number of training/solo hours required for this certificate is 40 hours and you will have to be able to pass the FAA Third Class Medical exam. While this process of obtaining this certificate is definitely more involved, there are significantly less restrictions placed upon you than those with a Sport Pilot Certificate. You can take passengers, fly into complex airspaces, go day or night, etc. Essentially, your wings aren’t clipped when you have a Private Pilot Certificate.

 

But what if you don’t have any desire in obtaining a pilot’s license but you still want to fly your drone for commercial purposes? As mentioned above, the best route for you is to either hire someone with a Sport Pilot Certificate or find a bored pilot down at your local airport to come fly for you. Some pilots may even be willing to fly your drone for free – just to have the thrill of flying a cool drone! But remember, you can still change your mind and decide to get your pilot’s license after getting your Section 333 Exemption, thus allowing you to operate your drone.

 

If you have any questions about this murky area of the Section 333 Exemption process, feel free to call a drone attorney at The Ison Law Firm. We can walk you through the process and help you develop a strategy that is best for you and your operation. We are standing by to vector you through legal turbulence…call us at 863-712-9472 or e-mail to Anthony@ThePilotLawyer.com.

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