For pilots who have an OWI charge in Iowa or a DUI charge in Illinois, there are additional considerations and requirements that the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) imposes. It is important to ensure that such requirements are fully complied with, so as to minimize any adverse affects upon one’s pilot’s certificate.
The FAA requires that pilots inform the FAA in writing of any alcohol-related conviction or administrative action taken against a pilot. For example, a conviction for OWI in Iowa would qualify as such an event, as would a conviction for DUI in Illinois. Similarly, the Statutory Summary Suspension (SSS) that Illinois imposes upon drivers who refuse to submit to a breath test, or who breathalyze above 0.08 (or lower if under 21), also qualifies as such an event. Similarly, the Iowa law that provides for license suspension upon a test refusal or failure also triggers the FAA’s reporting requirement. In many cases, the pilot is required to notify the FAA multiple times (e.g. once for the failed breath test at the time of arrest, and once for the conviction for DUI/OWI, if the pilot is actually convicted in court).
As far as the specific reporting requirements, under 14 CFR 61.15, all pilots must send a Notification Letter to the FAA’s Security and Investigations Division within 60 calendar days of the effective date of an alcohol-related conviction or administrative action. The consequences of a failure to report can be rather harsh, including an “emergency” suspension of the pilot’s certificate.
One positive aspect of this process is that the FAA often does not “double punish” a pilot by imposing a sanction for the license suspension from the failed breath test and then again for the DUI (Illinois) or OWI (Iowa) conviction in court, should the pilot be convicted. At the same time, the fact that the FAA can and will take action based upon the driver’s license suspension that is imposed upon those who fail or refuse a breath test makes it all the more important to properly handle that breath test refusal suspension issue. Often, the best course of action involves appealing that suspension.
As an attorney and pilot myself (single engine land, with an instrument rating) I find cases that deal with the intersection of law and aviation to be particularly rewarding. While the FAA can be rather exacting in its enforcement actions, it is still one of the better government agencies to have to deal with, which is a plus for pilots.