Flying While Intoxicated Is an Offense Under New Jersey and Federal Law
Operating any kind of powered vehicles, such as a car, truck, boat, or airplane, can be dangerous to yourself and others around you. You need a license to drive a motor vehicle on public roads in New Jersey. Driving while intoxicated (DWI) is a motor vehicle offense under New Jersey law that can result in license suspension, fines, and possible jail time. Aircraft can be even more dangerous than cars or trucks, so the requirements for becoming a pilot are far stricter than most types of driver’s licenses. The penalties for operating an aircraft while under the influence of drugs or alcohol — also known as flying while intoxicated (FWI) — can result in penalties under both state and federal law.
Who Is Legally Allowed to Fly a Plane?
Each state handles driver’s licenses for its residents. The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) deals with pilot licensing, known as certification, for the entire country. The type of certification depends on factors like the size of the aircraft and the number of passengers. Everyone starts with a student license. From there, the options include:
– Recreational pilots: Limited to small aircraft, short distances, and a small number of passengers;
– Private pilots: Can fly small aircraft with passengers for business purposes; and
– Commercial pilots: Can operate large commercial jets.
What Is Flying While Intoxicated?
Both state and federal law prohibit FWI. New Jersey defines the offense as operating an aircraft “while under the influence of or using intoxicating liquors, cocaine or other habit-forming drugs.” Unlike the DWI statute, it does not specify a blood alcohol content (BAC) amount at which a pilot is presumed to be impaired. Federal law handles that aspect of the offense.