DUI arrests occur every day across the country. They are routine fare for law enforcement and only certain cases warrant outstanding media attention, such as those involving celebrities or strange conduct on the part of the driver. DUI charges have been leveled against people who weren't operating conventional automobiles before. Among the more bizarre things people were operating when they were charged with a DUI: a lawn mower, a Zamboni, a wheelchair, a motorized cooler, a Christmas float and a horse-drawn buggy. Despite the general eccentricity of these vehicles, they do have the commonality of being operated on solid ground. A far rarer charge is the ‘FUI,' or flying under the influence. It is, at best, a niche practice area with a small number of specialized lawyers and few annual cases.
A suspected FUI was reported in Los Angeles earlier this month. Darrell Roberts, 58, was allegedly piloting a Piper Cherokee while intoxicated; no one else was aboard. The planned flight would have taken Roberts from Temecula to San Diego, a distance of about 60 miles. Along the way, Roberts became lost and began heading northward toward LA, as his aircraft began running out of fuel. Roberts then staged an emergency landing in a warehouse parking lot. The wing of his aircraft clipped a stop sign before landing in the empty lot late Monday. The Associated Press reports that police suspected Roberts was under the influence, although additional details have not yet been released. Roberts was uninjured. The incident is still under investigation.
Federal Aviation Regulations outline the laws of Flying Under the Influence. FUI law has much in common with DUI law, with many shared provisions and penalties. Regulations state, “no person may act or attempt to act as a crewmember of a civil aircraft” while under the influence of alcohol (with a BAC of .04 or greater, the same BAC limit imposed on those driving with a Commercial Driver's License) or within 8 hours of alcohol consumption. Flying under the influence of any impairing drugs is likewise illegal. Just as a person may be charged with DUI if they were “sleeping it off” or merely sitting in a parked vehicle, a person may be charged with FUI if they were intoxicated in the cabin of a nonmoving aircraft.
A conviction for FUI could be punished with fines, jail time and alcohol education programs, the severity of which depend on the circumstances of the case such as the pilot's blood alcohol content and any injuries or property damage incurred from the FUI. DUIs and FUIs intertwine and affect one another in other ways. Pilots are required to report any past DUI convictions to the FAA. Pilots with two driver's license suspensions in a three-year span stand to have their pilot's license suspended, or denied if they have not yet obtained one.
Flying under the influence is certainly far less common than driving under the influence. Both are serious charges which need to be dealt with right away - anyone charged with a DUI is advised to retain a skilled attorney right away. If you have been charged with a DUI in Forsyth County, contact experienced Forsyth County DUI Attorney Richard Lawson as soon as possible for a free consultation.