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Federal Criminal Charges for Flying an Airplane in California Without a License

Jul 27, 2018 by Mike McKneely in Criminal Defense, Federal Crimes

It may seem strange to think of a pilot as anyone aside from a person in uniform who works at the airport. However, there are more people, that don’t fit that description, flying airplanes than you may expect. According to the latest available numbers, there are approximately 160,000 people in the United States with a private pilot’s license. Flying an airplane without a license is punishable by law. A licensed pilot who simply lets their friend try flying their plane or a pilot who flies with an expired license are both at risk of incurring criminal charges. Unqualified flying can lead to massive consequences.

Piloting without a license could result in federal charges. When charges are federal, everything becomes magnified, including the intensity of the proceedings and your potential punishment. If you are in this type of complex and difficult situation, it’s important to retain the counsel of a skilled Fresno federal crimes defense attorney.

Contact Michael McKneely, Criminal Defense Lawyer today at (559) 443-7442 to schedule a free case consultation.

Federal Penalties for Piloting Without the Proper License

49 U.S. Code § 46317 prohibits an individual from operating (or attempting to operate) an aircraft without the proper licensure. Failure to comply with this law can result in a maximum sentence of three years in federal prison and an additional fine up to $250,000 for each charge.

Violating a Commercial License vs. a Private License

Pilots who fly for airlines are required to have a commercial pilot’s license. A commercial license requires the completion of a strict curriculum, both in a classroom setting and in practice. If you have your commercial pilot’s license, you have to ensure you follow the proper renewal procedure. Flying a plane with an expired or lapsed license is also illegal.

A private pilot’s license also requires training, though not as intense as the education required for a commercial license. With a private pilot’s license, you can fly a small aircraft with an appropriate number of non-paying passengers. The severity of your punishment for flying without the proper qualifications depends on the type of license you were required to have.

The Importance of Knowing Which License You Need

As recently as 2017, a pilot from Orange County was indicted for flying a private plane without the right license on two separate occasions. Arnold Leto III stood accused of two federal counts of operating an aircraft without a license, and was found guilty on both counts. He was sentenced to 10 months in federal prison and fined $5,500.

It’s important to note that Leto was not without a license of any kind. In February 2015, he had acquired a license that qualified him to be second-in-command aboard the aircraft he was flying. That being said if he had flown with a qualified co-pilot on the trips in question, he would not have violated the federal statute. As it was, he flew solo, broke federal law, and had to face the consequences.

Are You Facing Charges for Flying an Airplane Without a License? Call Us Today

If you’re in the Fresno area and are facing charges for flying an airplane without a license, you need to contact an attorney right away. Such an offense is a federal crime, and as such, it will be penalized accordingly. At Michael McKneely, Criminal Defense Lawyer, we understand federal law, and will answer any questions you have.

Contact us online, or reach out at (559) 443-7442 to schedule your free consultation today.

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