According to a recent article, a Minnesota ultralight pilot was arrested after he crashed his ultralight into a lake. The police suspected that the pilot was operating the aircraft while under the influence of alcohol. Under Minnesota Statute 360.752 a pilot convicted of operating an aircraft while under the influence of alcohol is guilty of a gross misdemeanor and could be subject to imprisonment and payment of a fine. The local city or county attorney will likely prosecute the pilot for this offense. Does this mean that the FAA will get involved? Not necessarily.
First, it is unclear from the article whether the aircraft was, in fact, an ultralight since the article indicates that a passenger was not injured in the crash (FAR 103.1 defines an ultralight as being used or intended to be used by a single occupant). If we assume that the aircraft was an ultralight aircraft, under FAR 103.7, neither an airman nor a medical certificate is required to operate an ultralight aircraft. Thus, the arrested pilot wouldn’t need to have had any certificates to operate the aircraft. As a result, the pilot may not have any certificates for the FAA to revoke.
If the pilot does have an airman or medical certificate, it is almost certain that the the FAA will revoke the airman certificate under FARs 91.17(a) (no person may act as a crewmember of an aircraft while under the influence) and 91.13(a) (careless and reckless) and will revoke the medical certificate under 67.307(a) (substance dependence or substance abuse disqualifies a person from holding a third-class medical certificate). If the pilot does not have an airman or medical certificate, the FAA could still pursue a civil penalty action against the pilot for violations of FARs 91.17(a) and 91.13(a).
Unfortunately, the limited facts in the article make it difficult to predict whether the FAA will actually get involved and, if so, exactly what action it might take. However, what is certain is that the pilot will need the help of a criminal defense attorney, and quite possibly an aviation attorney, to defend himself and to protect his rights.