Flying While Intoxicated in Texas
Many know the risks of drunk driving because of frequent accidents. However, not as many think about the dangers of flying while intoxicated. Safe driving campaigns focus on drunk driving accidents, but the risks of impaired flying are often overlooked.
Piloting a plane, be it a commercial airliner or a private aircraft, differs from driving a car. Despite the distinctions, there’s a crucial similarity: whoever is in control should not consumed alcohol or drugs while operating any vehicle, be it a car or a plane.
If you are a pilot and operate a civil aircraft while under the influence of drugs or alcohol, you may be subject to charges for flying while intoxicated (FWI). Charges can be brought under federal and/or state laws, exposing you to the risk of severe penalties.
Flying While Intoxicated Texas Overview
In Texas, according to Section 49.05 of the Penal Code, it’s against the law to fly or handle any kind of aircraft while intoxicated. This includes planes, helicopters, or any other flying machines. If you operate a private or commercial aircraft under the influence of alcohol or drugs, you could face charges under this law.
The Impact of Alcohol on Pilot’s Performance
Flying requires full attention and a clear mind. Pilots should be well-rested and sober, ideally avoiding alcohol or limiting intake to ensure optimal functioning.
Alcohol is a sedative, slowing down your brain’s activities. When you drink before flying, it increases the chances of making mistakes, jeopardizing passengers’ lives. This happens because alcohol affects your brain, ears, and eyes:
- Brain: Alcohol, combined with high altitudes, reduces your brain’s oxygen use, leading to impaired judgment, reasoning, response time, and memory.
- Ears: It affects the ability to hear accurately and maintain balance.
- Eyes: It affects your ability to fly using instrument flight rules (IFR) or perform tasks with visual flight rules (VFR).
These effects directly impact a pilot’s ability to safely operate the aircraft.
Federal Law on Flying While Intoxicated
Federal Aviation Regulation § 91.17 outlines guidelines regarding the use of alcohol and drugs among pilots. Within its various stipulations, this regulation explicitly prohibits any individual from operating or attempting to operate an aircraft:
- Within eight hours of consumption of alcohol.
- Under the impact of alcohol.
- While using any substance that poses a safety risk.
- With a blood alcohol content (BAC) equal to or exceeding 0.04%.
The FAA has strict rules about pilots and crew members drinking alcohol, whether it’s for a commercial or private flight. If they break these rules, they could lead to imprisonment, fines and revocation.
Many airlines check their pilots for alcohol use before and after flights, and they might ask for random samples. As a pilot, you’re expected to follow the implied consent law, meaning you’ve agreed to provide these samples. If you refuse, your license could be automatically suspended.
Even if you’re flying a private plane alone, you still have to follow FAA rules about avoiding alcohol before a flight. Breaking this rule might make you lose your pilot’s license, according to state laws.
The FAA also requires pilots to report various alcohol or drug-related convictions, including boating while intoxicated, driving while intoxicated, and operating or assembling an amusement ride while intoxicated.
Flying Under Influenced Legal Penalties
Flying under the influence can lead to legal trouble under federal or state laws. If charged under Texas penal code 49.05(b), penalties are as follows:
- First offense: A class B misdemeanor, carrying 72 hours to 180 days in jail and fines up to $2,000.
- Second offense: A class A misdemeanor, with a jail term of 30 days to 12 months and fines up to $4,000.
- Third offense: A Third Degree felony, resulting in two to ten years in prison and fines up to $10,000.
Refusing a chemical test may lead to license suspension or revocation and higher fines. It’s crucial to understand and abide by these laws to avoid serious consequences.
Arrested? Don’t Plea, Call Me!
If you or someone you know is facing Flying While Intoxicated (FWI) charges, it’s crucial to have the best possible DWI lawyer, especially if flying is your career. Doug Murphy, a board-certified criminal defense and DWI lawyer, holds a unique distinction in Texas. Aside from defending rights and winning cases, he also helps other DWI lawyers enhance their skills.
Involving a board-certified DWI attorney specialist early allows for effective investigation and strategy, aiming for the best outcome. We not only support pilots in DWI defense but also assist with FAA licensing matters.