As I have explained in previous posts, in order for an airman to convince an administrative law judge (“ALJ”) that he or she did not subjectively know or understand that an answer on a medical certificate application was false, the ALJ must find the airman credible. An airman failed to do this in a recent case. In Administrator v. Ledwell, the airman was facing an emergency revocation order alleging that he failed to disclose his DWI arrest and subsequent convictions for both violation of the implied consent statute and reckless driving in response to Question 18(v) on his application for medical certificate.
At the hearing, the airman argued that “he did not think reckless driving was an alcohol-related conviction and he was not aware that he was convicted for a violation of implied consent.” He also stated that he didn’t think he was arrested, although he had previously admitted that fact in his response to the FAA’s letter of investigation. Unfortunately, the ALJ didn’t buy it.
The ALJ stated that he couldn’t assess any credibility to the airman’s statement that he didn’t understand the question on the application. He observed that “this wasn’t just some little stop and have coffee with a policeman out there on that road … I mean, he was placed in the back of the patrol car. He was taken downtown…And then to come and say that he had never been arrested is just not credible.”
As a result, the ALJ concluded that the airman had intentionally falsified his answer on the medical application and he affirmed the FAA’s order of revocation. Deferring to the ALJ’s credibility determination, as it must, the NTSB agreed with the ALJ’s determination that the airman was arrested for an alcohol-related driving offense. Accordingly, the Board denied the airman’s appeal and affirmed the ALJ’s decision.
Although the airman and his attorney made the right arguments, unfortunately they were not able to persuade the ALJ. In order to convince an ALJ, an airman will need sufficient facts to support his or her defense. That will continue to be a tough burden for airmen in intentional falsification cases.