Real Answers from Real Pilots

Misdemeanor DV and airlines

Hello all,

I am 27 a student pilot and will be working on finishing most of my ratings this year PPL through CFI. I had a completely spotless record other than a speeding ticket 10 years ago until just a few weeks ago. During an argument after breaking an engagement with my fiancé she was drunk and struck me in the face, i then grabbed her by the arm and left a small bruise on her arm and i was arrested for misdemeanor domestic violence in the state of california. I am extremely worried that this will end my career. I took a plea deal to avoid their jail time and left with a year of counseling no jail time and a record. In the next 2-3 years if i have a bachelors degree, (hopefully) no failed check rides, and this charge expunged which in the state of california is considered Dismissed after expunged will i have a chance? Ive talked to a regional HR and they have said they have hired guys with similar problems. Just would like to hear some insight and if you guys might know of anyone with similar circumstance prevailing in this industry.

Thanks for your help!

Also i know entrance to canada may come up here. I have researched and seen that a California expungement is honored by Canadian law.

Also to add… My fiancé has since realized the seriousness of the matter and is telling the DA that this is not violence and it was self defense. My second option which could be risky would be to attempt to withdrawal my plea and take this to trial and let a jury decide. If i lose i could do actual jail time. If i win i would still be faced with an arrest on the record still as well. I would certainly risk that consequence to save my chances of ever becoming an airline pilot. I love flying it is my greatest passion in life, i have saved up years to be able to afford training and an aviation degree however if its not possible to go to majors now i would love to know even though i still wouldn’t quit being a CFI. The ultimate dream for me is to fly cargo for UPS one day. Once again thanks in advance for any advice or insight the APL community may be able to give.

Jason,

The short answer is you should be ok. The key word is “should”. Few things to keep in mind. First off I’m not an attorney but if you left with a “record” and pled guilty why would your record be expunged? I’ve known more than a few people who swore, “were told”, “promised” etc their records would be and they never were. If that’s part of the plea deal you have to make sure it’s done. Second (and more important) when you apply to a Major they will ask have you ever been arrested, convicted or pled guilty and if you have you must say you have. Now the Regionals are desperate for pilots but the Majors are not. If that’s the only thing you have and your record is SQUEAKY CLEAN otherwise I’m inclined to think you’ll be ok but as always there are no guarantees. I have a friend who’d on the hiring panel of a Major airline. His brother was killed by a drunk driver years ago, if someone with a DUI gets him on their panel chances are they’re done. Get someone who’s sister, mother etc was a victim of DV and you could have a very hard time. The fact is there’s a whole lot of qualified pilots out there without any criminal convictions so I’d need a really good reason to overlook the fact that you do. What is it? I don’t have an answer but that’s something you need to think about. UPS is the top of the food chain and their applicants all have degrees and no checkride busts. So if this were your interview and you were asked why should we hire you what would you say? And it had better be more than “it’s my passion”.

Adam

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Adam, Thanks so much for the quick response sir. It gives me a lot of hope for the future and overcoming this situation. Now that she is recanting her initial statements an expungement will be granted most likely within a year and a half when probation is over. HOWEVER in california the record isn’t gone forever once expungement happens it basically adds a new line to the case that says Dismissed. I know for a fact that it will come up on a DOJ airline background check and I’m speaking to aopa lawyers on the best way to answer it on state licenses (FAA, SIDA badge, ETC) i MUST disclose the expungement however on the private employers app some say i can just answer no to convictions other say to report i was 1. arrested. 2. charged. and 3 the charges were dismissed. In California they MUST make an arrest if someone calls the authorities for something like this (i heard because of the OJ trial). Im not looking to weasel out of the truth here thats not the case, i will answer honestly for the rest of my life. As far as the ups situation goes, my father has been with the company for over 40 years and has a very good position there. I was looking forward to some kind of what i believe is a legacy program with them because of his service. Now whether or not the details of this situation along with that program will give me a shot, i simply don’t know. Maybe go to the regionals for longer and then wait a bit to apply at ups once this thing is further in the past would be the better option. I have so many questions and its tough to get answers anywhere i turn the ultimate conclusion seems to be to just find out when i get there, i have my PPL check ride coming up in a month and although I’m trying not to be discouraged and everyone says don’t be its hard not to be a bit discouraged with this now looming over my head. I don’t know if a letter from her (The victim) to the employer explaining the circumstances form her end would help or not either. Thanks very much for your help sir

Jason,

Again I believe you’ll be fine. The best thing you can do is work hard, keep your nose clean and put some time and distance between yourself and this arrest. I like the fact you’re owning it and that’s important. Worse thing you can do when it comes up (and it will) is to point fingers and accept no responsibility. Not to beat this horse to death but it’s imperative that this be the ONLY issue you have. Finish your training, build your time and get hired at a Regional. Work hard there and when the time comes for you to interview make certain you have no other strikes. One strike vs good grades, strong work history, no training issues and a CLEAN criminal and driving record and we can have a conversation. Let it happen again, history of bad driving, other arrests or bad behavior and you’re done. It’s up to you.

Adam

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Adam,

Thank you for your time and input it is extremely appreciated. I will continue with my training and be enrolling to Embry Riddle soon after the PPL. I can only hope someone will take a chance on me at a major in the future. Yes sir, this will be the ONLY thing on my record and hopefully they will make note that before this it was squeaky clean and it will remain so after up until the interview.

Jason,

I am inclined to agree with Adam on this one, but you need to keep your record completely clean moving forward. Also, it will be tougher for you than for other people, that is just going to be a fact of life. So like Adam said, make sure that you stand out for other, positive reasons. As we always say though, there are no guarantees in this industry.

Chris