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Digging up the past

Forgetting isn’t an option

Editor's note: The print version of this story incorrectly identified the form used to request a copy of a medical certification file. AOPA regrets the error.
Many people have a minor legal issue in their past they’d rather forget, such as a youthful indiscretion that led to a run-in with the police or an unpaid parking ticket that meant a suspended license.

But for pilots, forgetting isn’t an option—at least when it comes to filling out an application for an FAA medical certificate or BasicMed. Failing to recall the consequences of an offense, no matter how old, can result in incorrect answers on these forms and in turn harsh FAA sanctions. Fortunately, there are a few ways to dig up the past to help ensure answers are correct.

Lost records, faded memories, or confusion about the legal outcome of a case all can make someone uncertain about whether an event from their past must be reported on the FAA medical application (MedXPress) or BasicMed Comprehensive Medical Examination Checklist (CMEC). No matter how long ago an event occurred, it must be disclosed if it falls within the scope of a question on the MedXPress or CMEC. Question 18 on MedXPress begins with “Have you ever in your life…” while the CMEC asks about conditions “at any time in your life…”

An infamously confusing question 18(v) on MedXPress asks about any arrests or convictions involving driving while intoxicated, as well as arrests, convictions, or administrative actions involving offenses that resulted in the denial, suspension, cancellation, or revocation of driving privileges or that resulted in attendance at an educational or a rehabilitation program. The CMEC’s version of this question is similar but doesn’t include “arrests.” Question 18(w) on both forms asks about any “non-traffic convictions (misdemeanors or felonies).”

For those in need of a refresher about the details of a past event, the first step is to obtain a copy of related police reports and court records. If you were represented by an attorney, the law firm may still have relevant records in its files, but otherwise it is a matter of contacting the records department of the relevant law enforcement agency or clerk of the court that handled the matter.

If the relevant law enforcement agency or court is unknown, one option is to submit an Identity History Summary request to the FBI. If you submit the request, along with a fingerprint card and $18 fee, the FBI can provide information taken from fingerprint submissions kept in its files, including the name of the agency that submitted the fingerprints to the FBI, the date of the arrest, the arrest charge, and, if known, the disposition of the arrest.

Researching actions against driving privileges, however, usually means a request to the relevant state department of motor vehicles (DMV). Most DMVs have online services to provide an electronic driver’s history that lists all violations, departmental actions, and accidents. Note that if an event took place out of state, it is possible that driving privileges in that state may have been affected (generating a record in that state) even though the home state that issued the driver’s license never took any action.

A broader search may mean submitting a notarized, written request to the National Driver Registry (NDR). The NDR will search its database of information provided by state DMVs about individuals whose driving privileges were revoked, suspended, canceled, or denied. The search provides a report of any states with matching records. Every time an airman completes MedXPress or an FAA-approved online BasicMed education course, he or she authorizes the FAA to conduct its own search of NDR records, so it is a good idea to get the same information the FAA may access.

If an aviator is uncertain what they have already disclosed to the FAA on previous medical applications, they can obtain a copy of their medical certification file, including copies of previous applications, by mailing or faxing a completed copy of Form AC 8065-2 to the FAA’s Aerospace Medical Certification Division. For BasicMed pilots, the FAA will not have any copies of previous CMECs, as those are retained with the pilot’s logbook; the state-licensed physician who completed your exam and form may have a copy in their records, but there is no such requirement.

If records have been purged because of the passage of time, the best course of action is often to obtain an official statement from the custodian of those records explaining no record exists. If the records were sealed or expunged, the FAA’s position is that the event must still be disclosed. Whenever records cannot be found, aviators should consult with counsel before taking further action.

It is critical to address any uncertainties about past events before completing MedXPress or the CMEC. Should a misunderstanding lead to the FAA identifying an answer it believes to be incorrect or intentionally false, the aviator’s certificates may be in jeopardy.

[email protected]

Jared Allen

Mr. Allen is AOPA’s Legal Services Plan (LSP) senior staff attorney and is an instrument-rated private pilot. He provides initial consultations to pilots through the LSP when the FAA has contacted them about potential FAR violations. Jared has helped numerous pilots successfully navigate through compliance actions.

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