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FWI: Flying While Intoxicated

Updated: Mar 9, 2023 @ 5:34 pm

Reading Time: 5 Minutes

As a DWI lawyer licensed to practice law in Texas since 1991, Attorney Tad Nelson has defended thousands of people charged with Driving While Intoxicated (DWI), and in some cases, Flying While Intoxicated (FYI) in the Houston area.

If you’re facing criminal charges after piloting your aircraft due to accusations that you were intoxicated from drugs or alcohol, and you’re seeking legal representation, contact Tad Nelson & Associates today at 713-802-1631. Tad & Amber have extensive experienced beating criminal charges related to human biochemistry and we can likely help you too.

What is Flying While Intoxicated (FWI)?

FWI is a serious criminal offense that involves operating an aircraft while under the influence of alcohol or drugs. In Texas, FWI is treated similarly to DWI, and the penalties following a criminal conviction are just as serious.

FWI & Texas Law

Definition of FWI

FWI is a specific criminal offense cited in the Texas Penal Code (Texas Penal Code, Title 10, Chapter 49 Sec 49.05.) that prohibits individuals from operating an aircraft while under the influence of drugs or alcohol. This includes any aircraft, whether it is a small private plane or a commercial airliner.

Penalties for FWI

The penalties for FWI in Texas depend on a variety of factors, including the number of prior convictions and the severity of the offense. For a first-time offense, you could face up to six months in jail, fines of up to $2,000, and a suspension of your pilot’s license for up to a year. Subsequent convictions carry even more severe penalties, including longer jail time and higher fines.

How Law Enforcement Agencies Enforce FWI Laws

Similar to laws governing motorists, pilots are subjected to the implied consent law. If the pilot is suspected to be under the influence of drugs, alcohol or any other controlled substance, the pilot is mandated to take a test. Refusal to take the test may result in severe consequences, such as a substantial fine or suspension/revocation of the pilot’s license.

If the pilot takes the test (or is forced to take the test) and is found to be intoxicated, the pilot will be arrested and subject to prosecution.

Flight Staff and The Law

The FAA has strict regulations governing the consumption of alcohol by crew members of any civil aircraft, be it commercial or private. These regulations prohibit crew members from working if they have consumed alcohol in the last 8 hours before the flight, are under the influence of drugs or alcohol, or have a blood alcohol content of 0.04 or above.

If a pilot or crew member is violates these policies, they may be sent to jail, fined, have their pilot’s license revoked, or a combination of such. Since the consequences of flying under the influence of alcohol are serious, it is advisable to seek legal advice from a qualified lawyer if you’re accused of the crime.

Alcohol and the Human Body

As a DWI lawyer in Texas, understanding how alcohol affects the human body is critical when defending clients accused of Flying While Intoxicated (FWI). Let’s look at alcohol and its effects on the body, including how blood alcohol concentration (BAC) is measured and used in FWI cases.

How Alcohol Affects the Human Body

When alcohol is consumed, it is rapidly absorbed into the bloodstream and distributed throughout the body. The liver metabolizes the alcohol, breaking it down into acetaldehyde and then into acetate, which is further broken down into water and carbon dioxide and eliminated from the body.

The level of alcohol in the bloodstream is measured by BAC, which is typically expressed as a percentage. In Texas, it is illegal to operate an aircraft with a BAC of 0.04% or higher. However, it is important to note that BAC is not the only factor that affects a person’s ability to operate an aircraft safely.

Factors That Affect BAC

Several factors can affect a person’s BAC, including:

  • The amount of alcohol consumed
  • The rate of consumption
  • Body weight and composition
  • Gender (See Womens’ Issues)
  • Food intake before or during drinking
  • Medications and health conditions

How BAC Is Measured

There are several ways to measure a person’s BAC, including:

Breathalyzer Tests: This test measures the amount of alcohol in a person’s breath by estimating the amount of alcohol present.

Blood Tests: This test measures the amount of alcohol in a person’s blood. It is considered the most accurate method for determining BAC.

Field Sobriety Tests: These tests evaluate a person’s ability to perform specific tasks, such as walking in a straight line or standing on one leg. While these tests are not directly measuring BAC, they are used as an indicator of impairment.

Why You Need a DWI Lawyer for FWI Charges

If you’re facing Flying While Intoxicated (FWI) charges in Texas, hire a knowledgeable and experienced criminal defense lawyer.

The Consequences of FWI Charges

FWI charges can result in serious consequences, including jail time, fines and court costs, and the suspension of your pilot’s license. Additionally, an FWI conviction can have a significant impact on your employment and future career opportunities.

The Importance of Experienced DWI Counsel

An experienced DWI lawyer like Tad Nelson will help you understand the charges against you, the potential consequences, and the best course of action for your situation.

Our legal team which includes ACS/CHAL Lawyer-Scientists will review all evidence and identify any weaknesses or flaws in the prosecution’s case. Depending on what we find and can prove, it’ll help us build a strong defense which could result in your charges being reduced or dismissed.

Need Help with Your Case?

Contact Tad Nelson & Associates Today!

Attorney Tad Nelson is a skilled DWI lawyer with over 30 years of experience practicing law in Texas. As an ACS/CHAL Lawyer-Scientist, he’s an expert on how alcohol affects the human body, which is often make-or-break knowledge in FWI cases.

If you’re seeking legal representation for criminal charges in Galveston County or Harris County, contact Tad Nelson & Associates today at 713-802-1631. We have law office locations in Houston, Galveston, and League City for your convenience.

Flying While Intoxicated

Tad Nelson & Associates

Houston DWI Lawyer Tad A Nelson is Board Certified in Criminal Law by the TBLS.

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