Flying Under the Influence in California
Pilots who fly any commercial or private aircraft under the influence of alcohol or drugs can be charged with flying under the influence in California (FUI). Flying under the influence is punishable under both federal and state law, and carries strict punishment.
FAA prohibits anyone from acting as a crew member if an individual has consumed alcohol within 8 hours of a flight, is under the influence of drugs, or has a blood alcohol content (BAC) of 0.4 percent or greater.
FUI laws in California are outlined in the Federal Aviation Regulations (FARs), which is governed by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA). The FAA will begin license suspension proceedings against any pilot found to have been drinking within 8 hours of flying. Criminal prosecution under the federal code is also possible.
Flying Under the Influence in California (FUI) Penalties
The punishment for violating flying under the influence laws in California (California Public Utilities Code §21407.1) are as follows:
- a mandatory 30 days to 6 months in jail,
- up to 15 years in prison (in some cases),
- up to $250,000 in fines, and
- revocation of his or her pilot’s license
Pilots of any aircraft are subject to an Implied Consent Law which means that any pilot who has been arrested on suspicion of flying under the influence of alcohol or drugs must submit to a chemical test. A pilot who refuses a chemical test has a risk to face up with fine and suspension or revocation of his or her pilot’s license.
It should be noted that in California law, Public Utilities Code section 21407.1, makes it unlawful for any person under the influence of alcohol or drugs to “operate an aircraft.” This also applies to operation of drones, because drones can be a hazard and a drunken drone operator could be a disaster waiting to happen.
If a pilot is arrested for flying under the influence in California, there are various arguments that a criminal lawyer can promote in an attempt to fight the charges:
- The pilot didn’t drink alcohol and didn’t take drugs. Perhaps, the equipment for testing breathing was not working right, or the pilot recently rinsed with Listerine, or had a medical condition that caused a false reading of the data by the device. Charges for FUI in Los Angeles can’t hold up in court if the prosecutor can’t prove intoxication beyond a reasonable doubt.
- The fact that the pilot didn’t start drinking until he / she completed the flight or left the aircraft, and before the test. If the prosecutor can’t prove that the pilot was under the influence of drugs or alcohol while operating the aircraft, this accusation must be rejected.
- If more than 4 hours have elapsed between the proposed incident FUI and the BAC chemical tests, the tests results can’t be used to prove the FUI in Los Angeles.
- The pilot didn’t voluntarily drink alcohol or take drugs before flying.
- The pilot was forced to fly the aircraft in an emergency situation to avoid a bigger problem.
Can DUI Cases Effects Pilots?
Pilots who were arrested for driving under the influence face reporting requirements with the FAA. Pilots must report driving under the influence convictions or DMV driver’s license suspensions to the FAA within 60 days. Anyone who fails to report a conviction or driver’s license suspension faces revocation of his or her pilot’s license.
In most cases, a pilot who properly reports a DUI / DWI conviction or driver’s license suspension to the FAA does not lose his or her pilot’s license. The pilot generally will be required to undergo a substance abuse or psychiatric evaluation.
We’re Here to Help
If you are a pilot who’s been arrested and charged with an FUI in California, exercise your constitutional rights and consult with a criminal defense lawyer experienced in flying under the influence cases.
Need a Criminal Defense Attorney? CALL NOW: 310-274-6529
Seppi Esfandi is an Expert Criminal Defense Attorney who has over 18 years of practice defending a variety of criminal cases.