Skip to main content
CNN International EditionLaw
The Web    CNN.com     
Powered by
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
ON TV
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

Florida cannot prosecute pilots for allegedly drinking before flight

Judge: Federal law supersedes state law on pilot qualifications

Thomas Cloyd, right, and Christopher Hughes shown last year.
Thomas Cloyd, right, and Christopher Hughes shown last year.

Story Tools

more video VIDEO
A federal judge ruled that Florida cannot prosecute two former America West pilots for operating an aircraft while allegedly intoxicated. CNN's John Zarrella reports (August 6)
premium content
RELATED
Complaints/arrest affidavits: Thomas Cloyd and Christopher Hughes  (FindLaw document, PDF format)external link

MIAMI, Florida (CNN) -- A federal judge ruled Tuesday that Florida cannot prosecute two former America West pilots for operating an aircraft while allegedly intoxicated because federal law, not Florida law, applies in the case.

A spokesman for the Miami-Dade County state's attorney's office said it would appeal the federal ruling.

Christopher Hughes and Thomas Cloyd have been fired from their jobs with America West Airlines. The pilots were at the controls of their America West jetliner on July 1, 2002, with 124 passengers on board a Miami-to-Phoenix flight when Miami-Dade police recalled the plane and arrested both Cloyd and Hughes.

A security guard had called police after the pilots had gone through a checkpoint.

Federal Judge Patricia Seitz issued a written order upholding the pilots' motion to dismiss the state charges against them. The order said federal law pre-empts state law in the area of pilot qualifications where there is no actual loss of life or injury or damage to property.

"The state lacks jurisdiction to prosecute them for matters that are solely within the jurisdiction of the federal government," she wrote.

The pilots took their case to federal court because they believed FAA regulations superseded Florida law in the area of pilot qualifications and capacity, and because in their employment as pilots they were governed by federal law.

Federal DUI standards also are higher: A .10 percent blood alcohol level, compared with the state standard of .08.

Both Cloyd, who had a blood alcohol level of .091 percent at the time of the flight, and Hughes, who had .084, state officials said, were legally drunk under Florida standards but not under the federal standard.

FAA rules prohibit a pilot to fly with a blood alcohol level greater than .04. Federal law allows criminal prosecution at .10.

"Obviously, this is not the decision we had wished and we will be appealing the decision," said Ed Griffith, spokesman for Miami-Dade State's Attorney Katherine Rundle, who was out of town.

Defense attorneys for Cloyd and Hughes issued a joint statement saying, "Mr. Cloyd and Mr. Hughes are very grateful and very pleased with the court's ruling today."


Story Tools
Click Here to try 4 Free Trial Issues of Time! cover
Top Stories
CNN/Money: Ex-Tyco CEO found guilty
Top Stories
EU 'crisis' after summit failure

City:

CNN US
On CNN TV E-mail Services CNN Mobile CNN AvantGo CNNtext Ad info Preferences
SEARCH
   The Web    CNN.com     
Powered by
© 2005 Cable News Network LP, LLLP.
A Time Warner Company. All Rights Reserved.
Terms under which this service is provided to you.
Read our privacy guidelines. Contact us.
external link
All external sites will open in a new browser.
CNN.com does not endorse external sites.
 Premium content icon Denotes premium content.