Drunk flying can be an even more serious crime than drunk driving. Operating an airplane in Nevada while under the influence of alcohol or drugs carries harsh federal FAA-mandated punishments, including possible prison time. Our Las Vegas criminal defense attorneys are here to help fight your charges and to do everything to try to keep you out of jail and your record clean.
How is “Flying Under the Influence” defined?
Flying under the influence laws in Nevada (FUI) are outlined in the Federal Aviation Regulations (FARS), which is governed by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA). The legal definition of flying under the influence mandates that “no person may act or attempt to act as a crewmember of a civil aircraft-
- within 8 hours after drinking alcohol;
- while under the influence of alcohol;
- while using any drug that affects the person’s faculties in any way contrary to safety; or
- while having an alcohol concentration [BAC] of 0.04 or greater in a blood or breath specimen.
Nevada FUI laws are therefore stricter than DUI laws: The legal BAC limit for flying under the influence in Las Vegas is half of that for driving under the influence, which is 0.08.
Furthermore, someone can be convicted for FUI in Nevada even if the plane isn’t in the air. Merely being in the cockpit or cabin while intoxicated is considered flying under the influence. See 14 CFR 91.17.
Similar to DUI, pilots and crew suspected of being drunk or high are required to submit to a chemical test. Refusing to do so is a crime in itself, carrying a hefty fine and even suspension or revocation of the pilot’s license.
What are the best defenses to this charge?
If a pilot is arrested for flying under the influence in Nevada, there are various arguments a criminal defense attorney can advance in an effort to fight the charges:
- That the pilot was not drinking or taking drugs. Perhaps the breath testing equipment was faulty or the officer mishandled it. Or perhaps the pilot had recently rinsed with Listerine or had a medical condition that caused the false reading. Las Vegas FUI charges can’t hold up in court if the prosecutor can’t prove intoxication beyond a reasonable doubt.
- That the pilot did not commence drinking until after he/she stopped flying or left the aircraft and before the testing occurred. If the prosecutor can’t prove that the piloting was under the influence of drugs or alcohol, this charge should be dismissed.
- That the delay between the alleged FUI incident and the chemical BAC testing was too long. If more than four hours elapse, then the test results can’t be used to prove flying under the influence in Las Vegas.
What are the penalties?
The maximum sentence for violating flying under the influence laws in Nevada is the following:
- up to fifteen years in prison,
- up to $250,000 in fines, and
- pilot’s license revocation
How does this affect a person’s piloting license?
Pilots are required to report their Nevada DUI convictions to the FAA and the Civil Action Security Division in Oklahoma City within 60 days after the verdict or plea. Pilots neglecting to inform the FAA about past DUIs can result in revocation of their pilot’s license.
Calls us if you’re facing FUI charges . . .
If you’ve been charged with flying under the influence in Nevada, call our Las Vegas DUI defense attorneys for a free phone meeting. We’ll vigorously investigate the case and negotiate with prosecutors in an effort to get your charges dismissed or reduced.
Also see our article on Nevada boating under the influence laws (NRS 488.410).