Many pilots suffer FAA penalties for failure to report "motor vehicle actions" involving drinking (or drug use) and driving under FAR 61.15. The most confusing part of this regulation relates to being stopped while driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs and having your driver's license suspended or revoked. You must report any of the following motor vehicle actions (if they occurred after November 29, 1990) within 60 days of that action:
Conviction is obvious, but "cancellation, suspension or revocation" of a driver's license causes much confusion. It doesn't matter if your arrest charges are later dismissed or pled down to a lesser charge. If your driver's license was suspended for an alcohol or drug action in any form, you must report it to the FAA Internal Security and Investigation Division within 60 days.
Your attorney may advise you that a report to the FAA is not required because the case was dismissed, or because the charge was plea-bargained to reckless driving. This is NOT correct. If your driver's license is suspended, even for only a few hours, canceled, or revoked, you must file a report.
Some states have automatic suspension laws if, for example, you refuse to take a breathalyzer test for alcohol. In other states, a police officer may physically confiscate your driver's license at the time of arrest. Some states may require a court hearing or court order. Whatever the mechanism, the result is the same: If your license is suspended, you must report it to the FAA within 60 days.
There may be times when you have to make two (or more) reports to FAA as a result of a single motor vehicle violation involving alcohol or drugs. For instance, if your driver's license is first suspended, then you are convicted of driving impaired, two notifications are required. The first report is required when your driver's license is suspended; the second one because you were later convicted of the charge that resulted in the suspension of your license in the first place. This may sound like double jeopardy because more than one notification is required, but it's not. Notifications are required because of the way the law was written, but the FAA will not assess any additional penalty if all the notifications arise out of the same arrest.
These reports are entirely separate from the question on the FAA airman medical application (item 18v), which asks about alcohol-related motor vehicle actions. Answering that question on your next medical application does not satisfy FAR 61.15, and reporting under 61.15 does not satisfy the requirement for reporting on your next medical.
The most straightforward part of FAR 61.15 says simply that if you are convicted of anything relating to drugs, the FAA can take action against your certificate. Revocation is the usual penalty unless the drug offense was simple possession of a small amount of the drug. No special reporting is required on your part, but the FAA almost always finds out anyway.
A separate section gives the FAA authority to suspend or revoke your pilot certificate for violations of FAR 91.17 (flying under the influence) or 91.19 (carrying drugs while flying). Again, no report is needed.
Where to send reports required by FAR 61.15:
FAA Internal Security and Investigation Division (AMC-700) P.O. Box 25810 Oklahoma City OK 73125 Fax: 405 954 4989 Telephone: 405 954 3212
And of course, as an AOPA member, you can always call AOPA experts for help or advice with any aviation-related questions: AOPA Pilot Information Center 800/USA-AOPA (872-2672).
Helps you find the contact information for submitting your medical records.
Updated October 27, 2009
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