Santa Rosa Law Firm (707) 528-2882

Cannabis (“Pot”) might be legal in California, but only while you are on the ground

The fact that marijuana is still illegal under Federal law was reinforced against an Airman, who lost his pilot’s certificate (revocation) and will not be able to reapply for a new certificate for at least 1 year (14 CFR, Sec. 61.13d (2)).

Mr. Siegel had an engine malfunction and crashed landed his airplane on a road in Kansas. The Kansas state troopers did a routine inventory of the aircraft and found THC infused chocolate bars in his briefcase that was in the aircraft. Mr. Siegel admitted to ownership of the chocolate. Mr. Siegel stated he had obtained the marijuana legally in Colorado, and 16 months later misdemeanor charges brought pursuant to Kansas law were dropped, the FAA issued an emergency order revoking his private pilot certificate for operating an aircraft with knowledge that marijuana, an illegal controlled substance, was on board. The administrative judge concluded Siegel had violated 14 CFR, Section 91.19, but reduced the revocation to a 90-day suspension. The parties appealed to the NTSB. Siegel’s appeal claims that he had not violated 91.19. The FAA challenged the reduction of the sanction by the ALJ.

The Board affirmed the administrative judge finding that Siegel knowingly transported a controlled substance in violation of 91.19. The Board also vacated the reduction and reinstated the complete revocation of the pilot’s certificate. The Board found that the FAA’s choice of sanction, that marijuana is an illegal federal substance and that the pilot knowingly violated 91.19 (even if the quantity was very small and not transported for commercial purposes) warranted a complete revocation.

It is very unusual for an airman to take a Board’s finding on appeal before the District Court. This pilot did appeal to the Court and claimed that the revocation was inappropriate. The Court’s review is limited to determine whether or not the NTSB’s decision was arbitrary, capricious or an abuse of discretion. The Appellate Court upheld the revocation of the license.

While it may be legal in a state to possess and use marijuana, you must be very careful in and around any aircraft, because as soon as you operate the aircraft, you come under federal jurisdiction and could lose your pilot’s certificate.

5 Questions to ask an Aviation Lawyer BEFORE you hire them

Drone flying near Airplane - Aviation LawWhom do you call when you’re facing an issue related to aviation law?

Many people contact their regular lawyer, but that would be a mistake.

Always hire an experienced aviation lawyer when faced with an aviation legal issue.

Aviation lawyers are more often than not, licensed pilots; some even have the experience of working as commercial pilots for major airlines in the past.

They have hands-on experience in aviation law and are better equipped to deal with complex aviation practices and regulations.

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What is Aviation Law?

Aviation law is a branch of law dedicated to air travel, the safety of passengers and aviation business transactions.

The aviation industry is highly regulated, and aviation law can be extremely complex.

It covers all legal issues related to aircraft and aircraft operations.

Aviation law operates at the federal level and falls under the jurisdiction of different federal agencies such as:


What does an Aviation Lawyer do?

Aviation lawyers, such as our own Marlon Young at Merrill, Arnone & Jones (MAJ Law) have expert knowledge of the rules and regulations governing flight safety, aircraft operation, aviation regulations and airport security.

It is the job of an aviation lawyer to defend you in legal matters that concern the FAA and other federal agencies.

Here are 5 basic questions to ask an Aviation Lawyer before hiring them.

  1. Can you tell me about your background in aviation law? Experience counts for a lot in this field. An experienced aviation lawyer knows exactly what to do in your situation; their inside knowledge of the aviation industry and the federal agencies could help with your case. If you’re being prosecuted by a federal agency such as the FAA, for example, you will want to hire a lawyer who has worked with the FAA many times in the past.
  2. What types of cases do you normally take? What type of cases does the lawyer specialize in? Do they have the relevant experience or background that could help with your case? Are they really capable of handling a complex issue related to aviation enforcement?
  3. How do you plan to handle my case? Every case is different. The facts are different, as are the circumstances. You can’t have a one-size-fits-all defense for every case, especially when it comes to enforcement matters. The lawyer should give a very detailed and specific answer, such as how they would look into the actions and behavior of various agencies or people involved in your situation; how they would analyze the relevant radio communications and radar data and so on.
  4. Do you belong to any industry-specific trial association? It is not easy for a lawyer to get into an industry-related group or trial association. Only lawyers with a high level of expertise are offered membership by such organizations. Find out if your lawyer belongs to any such group.
  5. Will you be handling my case directly? When you hire an aviation lawyer, you should be working with them directly. What you don’t want is for your case to be passed on to another lawyer within the firm. Only the lawyer you’ve talked to about your situation should handle your case.

And finally, what should you look for in an Aviation Attorney?

Find a lawyer who has an excellent track record of winning positive jury verdicts for their clients in aviation lawsuits.

You should feel confident about your lawyer’s ability to take the case all the way through to trial or negotiate for a favorable settlement.

If you need to talk to an aviation lawyer in Santa Rosa, call our office at (707) 528-2882 to explore your legal options.


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5 Questions to ask an Aviation Lawyer

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