Even at a lower level of intoxication, FUI can have significantly higher penalties than DUI.
Operating an airplane in California while under the influence of alcohol or drugs is an offense that can trigger licensing consequences as well as criminal penalties under state or federal law. Federal Aviation Regulations (FARS) enacted through the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) define this offense on the federal level and can be found in Title 14 of the Code of Federal Regulations, beginning with section 91.17. This definition 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.
Our Los Angeles DUI Lawyers point out that these regulations are more far-reaching and restrictive than California DUI laws. A violation of any of these regulations will lead to license suspension proceedings within the FAA. If FAA officials also decide that a certain case merits criminal prosecution, as they often do, they will forward an investigation report to the appropriate state or federal prosecutor's office with a recommendation to file a charge.
California flying under the influence laws can be found the California Public Utility Code, starting at section 21407.1. For the most part, they parallel CFR 91.17, except the penalties for a standard offense (a mandatory 30 days and potential 6 months in county jail) are much more limited. CFR 91.17 convictions can have sweeping penalties that can reach 15 years in federal prison and $250,000 in fines. Compared to California DUI laws, that's more severe than any charge except for California DUI murder.
Our Los Angeles DUI Lawyers explain that the wide range and potentially extreme penalties a federal violation of flying under the influence can have stems from the role federal law plays in policing all commercial pilots. Because the danger posed by intoxicated airline and industrial pilots, for example, could be catastrophic, the law allows for severe imprisonment terms where the circumstances warrant them.
California flying under the influence law is a complicated mixture of state, federal, and administrative law. However, the bottom line is this: Innocent people can be wrongly accused of FUI like any other charge. And all FUI defendants have just as much right to raise a vigorous defense as anyone else. Often pilots facing a charge of California flying under the influence will literally be fighting for their careers and their freedom at the same time. Our Los Angeles DUI Lawyers use many of the same successful strategies that successfully defend DUI charges to fight a FUI charge and preserve the pilot's license within the FAA.