FAA Medical with a Possession Conviction

  • ON Mar 11, 2023
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  • BY Anthony Ison
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  • IN Pilot Law

Can you get a FAA medical with a possession conviction on your record? It is possible to get a FAA medical with a possession conviction on your record. Of course, every situation is different; however, if you were convicted of a misdemeanor charge of “possession of paraphernalia” or “possession of marijuana” or the like, the FAA will require that you provide a “yes” response to question 18w. on your application for airman medical certificate. When you say “yes” to question 18w., it is likely that your Aviation Medical Examiner will defer your application to the FAA for further review. Upon review of your application, the FAA will likely ask for more information regarding the possession conviction. The information the FAA will require regarding the possession conviction will include a copy of the narrative police report, final court disposition documentation, a copy of your 10-year driving record, and a statement from you regarding past, present, and future plans for substance use. The FAA may also require that you provide a drug test result.

Typically, a possession conviction will give the FAA cause for concern as to whether you meet criteria for “substance abuse” or “substance dependence” under Part 67 of the Federal Aviation Regulations. Typically, the first thing you should look at is when was your possession conviction. If your possession conviction was greater than two years before your application for airman medical certification with the FAA, you may be able to argue to the FAA that you do not meet criteria for “substance abuse,” as “substance abuse” only has a two year lookback. Be careful, however, because if you indicate a concern for “substance dependence” to the FAA in your statement regarding substance use, you may actually trigger an inquiry for “substance dependence,” which is a lifetime lookback. If there has been no ongoing use of a substance, the possession conviction is greater than two years prior to application, and you do not trigger a concern for “substance dependence,” the FAA will typically issue you a medical certificate if you are otherwise qualified. It is important to remember that a possession conviction does not establish proof of substance use for the FAA. The regulation which defines “substance abuse” under the Federal Aviation Regulations requires use not just possession.

Why involve a FAA attorney in your FAA medical application when you have a possession conviction? Despite what you may hear from your AME, the medical certification process is more so a legal process than a medical process. Ensuring that your doctor is developing the proper documentation regarding your possession conviction, as needed, can be a difficult task. To that end, everything that is submitted to the FAA (i.e. records, statements, evaluations, etc.) goes into your airman medical file. This file is what the FAA then utilizes to evaluate whether you are eligible to hold a medical certificate, despite your possession conviction. If you are later denied and wish to appeal that denial, your airman medical file becomes “Exhibit A” before the NTSB or upon reconsideration by the Federal Air Surgeon. So, a FAA attorney can evaluate your records, prepare a plan for best presentation of your case to the AME or FAA, and best argue your medical eligibility to the Federal Air Surgeon, with an eye for potential, future appeal. Furthermore, if your medical documentation is as strong as possible upon initial submission, in doing so, hopefully, you will avoid unnecessary delay. Also, if you have failed to report your possession conviction on your FAA medical application, a FAA medical attorney can give you counsel on how to rectify your omission.

If you are concerned about your FAA medical and a possession conviction, call the FAA attorneys at The Ison Law Firm. We are happy to evaluate your case and discuss with you a plan for presenting your case to your AME or the FAA. Aviation law is all we do. Nothing else.

FAA Medical Certificate Denied for Substance Dependence: Part 1: Criteria for “Dependence”

  • ON Dec 04, 2020
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  • BY Anthony Ison
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  • IN Pilot Law

Has your FAA medical certificate been denied for “substance dependence?” The first thing to know is that the Federal Aviation Administration (“FAA”) has a different definition of “substance dependence” than does the rest of the medical community. Specifically, the medical community typically evaluates whether an individual has a “substance use disorder” by determining whether that individual meets criteria under the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (“DSM”). The FAA is usually quick to argue, however, that just because your psychiatrist, primary care physician, substance use counselor, or other healthcare professional doesn’t think you meet criteria for a disorder under the DSM, you can still meet criteria for “substance dependence” under the Federal Aviation Regulations (“FARs”). In other words, it’s easier to meet the FAA’s criteria for “substance dependence.”

So, how does the FAA define “substance dependence?” The FAA defines their criteria for “substance dependence” at 14 C.F.R. §67.107(a)(4)(ii), 14 C.F.R. §67.207(a)(4)(ii), and 14 C.F.R. §67.307(a)(4)(ii). These regulations, respectfully, coordinate to criteria for first-class, second-class, and third-class medical certification; however, the definition for “substance dependence” is identical across first-class, second-class, and third-class medical certification. The pertinent language from the FARs is as follows:

(ii) ‘Substance dependence’ means a condition in which a person is dependent on a substance, other than tobacco or ordinary xanthine-containing (e.g., caffeine) beverages, as evidenced by –

(A) Increased tolerance;

(B) Manifestation of withdrawal symptoms;

(C) Impaired control of use; or

(D) Continued use despite damage to physical health or impairment of social, personal, or occupational functioning.”

See 14 C.F.R. §67.107, here: 14 CFR § 67.107 – Mental. | CFR | US Law | LII / Legal Information Institute (cornell.edu)

Read in full, the regulation requires the doctors in the FAA’s Office of Aerospace Medicine to review your case to establish whether your medical history meets one of these four criteria. These criteria will be reviewed in greater detail in later writings. Nevertheless, it is important to note that the FAA only has to think that you meet one of these criteria, rather than all four.

What does the FAA review to establish whether you meet criteria for “substance dependence?” The most common records that the FAA doctors review are police reports from DUI arrests, hospital records from motor vehicle accidents which involved drugs or alcohol, records from substance abuse facilities, and primary care physicians. Other times, when the FAA suspects you may have “substance dependence,” they will ask for you to provide a statement, identifying your past, present, and future plans of alcohol use. More often than not, these statements can also reveal to the FAA that an airman meets criteria for “substance dependence.”

Ultimately, if you feel you’ve been wrongly identified as meeting the FAA’s criteria for “substance dependence,” you need to consult with a FAA medical defense attorney.  If your FAA medical certificate was denied for “substance dependence,” there are opportunities for the FAA’s decision to be reconsidered and appealed. Learn more about what a FAA medical defense attorney at The Ison Law Firm can do for you. FAA Substance Abuse – The Pilot Lawyer

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