FAA civil penalty actions are legal enforcement actions typically brought against entities holding FAA certificates that the FAA believes have violated a regulation. Sometimes the FAA will also pursue civil penalty actions against companies or individuals that do not hold an FAA certificate—i.e., unruly passengers who interfere with a flight crewmember or a company that violates hazardous materials regulations.
The civil penalties that may be imposed by the FAA are spelled out in the Sanction Guidance Table in FAA Order 2150.3B, Appendix B. In general, violations by individuals or small businesses can go up to $50,000, or up to $400,000 for large businesses and other persons. Civil penalties larger than those amounts—except for hazardous materials and commercial space transportation cases—are referred to the U.S. Department of Justice for prosecution.
The FAA initiates a civil penalty action by serving the alleged violator with a Notice of Proposed Civil Penalty that cites the relevant facts of the case, including the violation the FAA believes has been violated and a proposed civil penalty for that violation. A response to the Notice is expected within 30 days. The Notice outlines the certificate holder’s options for responding to the Notice per 14 CFR § 406.9:
- Pay the amount of the proposed civil penalty or an agreed upon amount, in which case the agency attorney will issue either an order imposing civil penalty or a compromise order in that amount.
- Submit one of the following to the agency attorney:
- Written information, including documents and witnesses statements, demonstrating that a violation did not occur or that a penalty, or the amount of the proposed penalty, is not warranted by the circumstances.
- A written request to reduce the proposed civil penalty, the amount of reduction, and the reasons and any document supporting a reduction of the proposed civil penalty, including records indicating a financial inability to pay or records showing that payment of the proposed civil penalty would prevent the person from continuing in business.
- A written request for an informal conference to discuss the matter with the agency attorney and to submit relevant information.
- Request that a final notice of proposed civil penalty be issued so that the respondent may request a hearing.
A skilled aviation attorney can help you decide which option is better for your particular case, and discuss with you your options for presenting mitigating factors to reduce a potential fine.
Williams Mestaz, L.L.P., has the experience and reputation that you want when you are dealing with a business-related lawsuit. We are here to obtain the best possible outcome for your situation. Do not hesitate to contact Williams Mestaz, L.L.P., at (602) 256-9400, and see how we can help you resolve your legal matter.