Motor Vehicle Violations

Records needed for an Alcohol (or Drug) Driving Case

Why is it necessary for an aviation psychiatrist to review a lot of records?

An aviation psychiatric examination is different than a clinical mental health evaluation. Aviation psychiatric examinations are designed to answer a specific question:  does the aviator’s situation allow a medical certificate under the FARs?

Legal problems that lead to scrutiny of aviation certification can include:

  • a high BAC alcohol-related driving incident
  • a series of lower-level alcohol-related driving incidents
  • a DUI with a BAC or blood test refusal
  • a drug-related criminal charge of any kind

Investigation of the record and sources is just as important as the in-office interview, so the psychiatrist relies on three equally important sets of information.  The elements are:

  • the psychiatric interview in an aviation psychiatrist’s office
  • a review of the pertinent legal record and FAA medical file
  • interview of collateral sources of information (spouses, employers, aviation peers, or some other source verification)

An evaluation will fail FAA scrutiny if the psychiatrist relies on the psychiatric interview alone.

Records you will need to acquire

Your aviation psychiatrist will want to talk with you before the assessment to determine the full set of documents needed for a thorough review. To save time, you may want to go ahead and request the FAA Medical file and legal records.

The FAA Medical File

The FAA may mandate that your psychiatrist review the entire FAA medical file. If so, the mandatory records review will be so stated in the FAA letter that advises about the need for a psychiatric assessment.  Even if not required as a mandate, the FAA could still determine that a thorough psychiatric evaluation should have reviewed the FAA medical file.

Since getting the FAA medical file can take several months to produce, I advise that the pilot request the FAA medical file as soon as possible even if the review has not (yet) been required by the agency.

Ask for one copy for every professional in your case, such as your AME, an aviation psychiatrist, and if you have been asked to see an aviation psychologist. We prefer that you have the file sent directly to the professional, but in case you are still trying to locate an expert you can have the file sent to yourself instead.

If you are receiving the file directly, do not break the seal on the envelope. If the seal of the envelope is broken then your doctor may request a new copy directly from the FAA.

Unless so stated, YOU DO NOT HAVE TO REQUEST A COPY OF A CERTIFIED (BLUE RIBBON) MEDICAL FILE.

For a generic copy of the FAA third-party request form, click here.

For an FAA request form pre-filled with Dr. Kirk’s information, click here.

Legal Records

Your aviation psychiatrist will need to see the officer’s evidence from the traffic stop. There are usually three components to the  evidence.

The first is a plain-language summary of what the officer observed during the stop. Depending on the jurisdiction, this may be called a WARRANTLESS ARREST AFFIDAVIT, AFFIDAVIT OF PROBABLE CAUSE, or OFFICER’S NARRATIVE STATEMENT.

The second piece of evidence is the officer’s record about how one performed on the Field Sobriety Tests. This form is usually called DUI FIELD NOTES or something similar to that.

Finally, the aviation psychiatrist will want to see the laboratory evidence, for example a breathalyzer or a serum (blood) alcohol test.

The narrative statement, DUI field notes, and chemical analysis results are almost always available through the police, state patrol, or sheriff’s office that originally gathered the evidence.  You can also usually get these records from your lawyer, if you had one. If the case occurred several years ago, it is possible that the files have been purged.

If your case is old and the case reports have been purged, most jurisdictions will produce a form letter saying that the files you requested are no longer available. You should ask for this and present with your case showing that you at least tried to get the files.

Law enforcement will not release records to your doctor so it’s okay to have the files come directly to you.

What else?

You can be sure that most every case will require these records above. Other records that you may want to go ahead and start securing would be certificates of completion of probation, copies of any post-arrest drug testing results, statement of community service completion, names and address of probation officers, and names and address of court-ordered education and group therapy classes.