We’ve covered cycling under the influence (CUI), horse riding under the influence (HRUI), boating under the influence (BUI), and even rafting under the influence (RUI). I think we’re due for a look at another means of transportation. What about transportation tens of thousands of feet in the air? That’s right; I’m talking about flying an airplane under the influence (FUI).
Crewmembers of civil aircrafts, including pilots, are governed by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA). Title 14 of the Code of Federal Regulations section 91.17 states 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.” Furthermore, the FAA requires random alcohol screenings of pilots and are subject to an implied consent law similar to California’s DUI implied consent law.
California Public Utility Code section 21407 is similar to the federal regulations in defining a FUI charge. California penalties for a first time FUI include a county jail sentence of 30 days to six months, and/or a fine of $250 to $1,000. Federal penalties, on the other hand, are far more severe and can include up to 15 years in federal prison and up to $250,000.
The prosecution agency has discretion to charge under state or federal law.
So aside from random testing, how does one get caught flying under the influence? Apparently the same as with a DUI, by giving the CHP probable cause to investigate for a FUI.
Earlier this year, a routine CHP air patrol in Sonoma County spotted the man flying his airplane “recklessly.” CHP officials stated that the man was flying as low as 50ft above the ground and within 100ft of highway traffic. CHP contacted the pilot after he landed and smelled alcohol on his breath. The man subsequently failed field sobriety tests. The Penngrove, California man pleaded no contest and was sentenced to four days in Sonoma County Jail, three years of probation, 30 days of home confinement, 26 days of volunteer service, and a fine of $2,326.