Drunk flying can be an even more serious crime than drunk driving. Flying under the influence (FUI) laws in Nevada are largely set forth in Federal Regulations. According to these laws, it is illegal for a person to act as a crewmember of a civil aircraft while under the influence of drugs or alcohol.
The applicable law on the matter reads in part:
14 CFR 91.17 – Alcohol or drugs.
(a) No person may act or attempt to act as a crewmember of a civil aircraft –
(1) Within 8 hours after the consumption of any alcoholic beverage;
(2) While under the influence of alcohol;
(3) While using any drug that affects the person’s faculties in any way contrary to safety; or
(4) While having an alcohol concentration of 0.04 or greater in a blood or breath specimen. Alcohol concentration means grams of alcohol per deciliter of blood or grams of alcohol per 210 liters of breath.
(b) Except in an emergency, no pilot of a civil aircraft may allow a person who appears to be intoxicated or who demonstrates by manner or physical indications that the individual is under the influence of drugs (except a medical patient under proper care) to be carried in that aircraft.
- flying an aircraft while drunk,
- serving as a co-pilot after having a beer 2 hours prior to take-off, and
- working as a crewmember with a blood alcohol content (BAC) of 0.06.
You can contest an FUI charge with a legal defense. A few common defenses include showing that you:
- were not drinking,
- stopped drinking more than eight hours before a flight, and/or
- did not start drinking until you stopped flying.
The penalties for flying under the influence will often depend on the specific facts of your case. However, the crime is typically punishable by:
- jail time, and/or
Our Las Vegas, NV criminal defense attorneys will discuss the following in this article:
- 1. What is FUI in the State of Nevada?
- 2. Are there common defenses to FUI charges?
- 3. What are the penalties?
- 4. Are there related offenses?
1. What is FUI in the State of Nevada?
Flying under the influence laws in Nevada are outlined in the Federal Aviation Regulations, as set forth by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA).
According to these laws, 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.1
Note that you can be convicted for FUI in Nevada even if the plane is not in the air. Merely being in the cockpit or cabin while intoxicated is considered flying under the influence.2
Nevada law also addresses the issue. Under NRS 493.130, it is a crime for any person to operate an aircraft while under the influence of:
- alcohol, or
- a controlled substance.3
2. Are there common defenses to FUI charges?
Las Vegas criminal defense attorneys draw upon several legal strategies to help clients challenge FUI charges. Three common ones include showing that you:
- were not drinking,
- stopped drinking eight hours before a flight, and
- started drinking after a flight.
2.1. Not drinking
Las Vegas FUI charges cannot hold up in court if the prosecutor cannot prove that you were drinking beyond a reasonable doubt. Law enforcement may have mistakenly believed that you were drinking because:
- they used faulty breath testing equipment,
- an officer mishandled the equipment, or
- you had a medical condition that caused a false reading.
No matter the reason, you can always contest a charge by showing that you were not drinking.
2.2. Not drinking within eight hours of a flight
Recall that federal laws state that it is a crime for a person to serve as a crewmember within eight hours after the consumption of any alcoholic beverage. This means it is a valid defense for you to show that you stopped drinking eight hours or more before your flight boarded.
2.3. Started drinking after a flight
You can always raise the defense that you did not commence drinking until after you stopped flying or left the aircraft and before any testing occurred. If the prosecutor cannot prove that you were under the influence of drugs or alcohol, then a charge should be dismissed.
3. What are the penalties?
The specific penalties imposed under federal laws for the crime of FUI will depend on the facts of your case. Possible penalties could include:
- jail time,
- fines, and
- completion of an alcohol awareness course.
Under Nevada state law, FUI is typically charged as a gross misdemeanor. The possible penalties include:
- custody in jail for up to a year, and
- a maximum fine of $2,000.4
Note that a flying under the influence conviction can also result in the suspension or revocation of your pilot’s license.
4. Are there related offenses?
There are three crimes related to FUI. These are:
- driving under the influence (DUI) – NRS 484C.110,
- interfering with a crewmember of a plane – CFR 121.580, and
- attempting to pass airport security with a gun – 49 U.S. Code 46505.
4.1. Driving under the influence – NRS 484C.110
Per NRS 484C.110, driving under the influence is the crime where you operate a motor vehicle:
- while under the influence of alcohol and/or drugs, or
- with a BAC of .08% or greater, as measured within 2 hours of driving (called “per se” DUI).
Unlike with FUI, DUI/DWI is usually charged as a misdemeanor as opposed to a gross misdemeanor. A first offense DUI conviction can result in:
- fines of $400 to $1,000,
- 2 days to 6 months in jail or 24 hours to 96 hours of community service,
- successful completion of DUI School, and
- a driver’s license suspension or revocation.5
4.2. Interfering with a crewmember of a plane – CFR 121.580
Per CFR 121.580, it is a federal crime if you assault, threaten, intimidate, or interfere with a crewmember in the performance of the crewmember’s duties aboard an aircraft.
Note that most people violate this statute after boarding a plane drunk or after consuming alcohol.
4.3. Attempting to pass airport security with a gun – 49 U.S. Code 46505
Under 49 U.S. Code 46505, TSA will detain and arrest you if you try to pass airport security with a firearm.
This is a more severe crime than FUI. The offense is charged as a felony and is punishable by:
- a fine, and/or
- up to 10 years in federal prison.
For additional help…
For additional guidance or to discuss your case with a criminal defense lawyer, we invite you to contact our law firm at the Las Vegas Defense Group. Our attorneys provide both free consultations and legal advice you can trust.
- 14 CFR 91.17.
- See same.
- NRS 493.130.
- See same.
- For general DUI penalties, see NRS 484C.400.