The Enforcement Division initiates legal enforcement actions to address noncompliance by regulated entities and persons including certificate actions, civil penalty actions, and informal procedures and settlements. The policies, procedures, and guidelines for the FAA's legal enforcement actions are contained in FAA Compliance and Enforcement Program, Order 2150.3C.
Informal Procedures and Settlements
There is an opportunity at the beginning of most enforcement cases for informal procedures, including an informal conference with an FAA attorney, to give the alleged violator a chance to bring to the FAA's attention information favorable to it, e.g., exculpatory or mitigating evidence. During these informal procedures, an enforcement action can sometimes be resolved to the mutual satisfaction of the parties.
Either during the informal procedures or later in the process, cases are often settled without resort to the full litigation process. Such settlements often result after consideration of the risks and expense of litigation. Settlements may reflect a lower civil penalty amount, sometimes due to charges being dropped, or the payment of a civil penalty without a violation established as a matter of record. In the latter case, the FAA may issue a compromise order. In some situations, multiple cases are resolved at one time, a situation when a consent order, signed by the FAA and the regulated entity, may be issued. Finally, sometimes cases initiated as certificate actions, i.e., suspensions or revocations, are resolved by payment of a civil penalty.
The Enforcement Division may initiate certificate actions in the form of certificate suspensions and revocations against persons and entities holding FAA-issued certificates. Certificate suspensions of a fixed number of days are issued to discipline an alleged violator and to deter others similarly situated. Suspensions of indefinite duration are issued to prevent a certificate holder from exercising the privileges of a certificate pending demonstration that the certificate holder meets the standards required to hold its certificate. Certificate revocations are issued when the FAA determines that a certificate holder is no longer qualified to hold a certificate.
Most orders of suspension and revocation may be appealed to the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB). Orders are first appealed to the NTSB's Office of Administrative Law Judges, and a decision issued by an ALJ may be appealed to the NTSB's full Board. The Board's Rules of Practice located in in 49 U.S.C. § 821 govern these proceedings before the NTSB. The full Board's decisions may be appealed to a United States court of appeals. Visit the National Transportation Safety Board's website for contact information, Rules of Practice in Air Safety Proceedings, Case Decisions Database, and other helpful resources.
Civil Penalty Actions
The Enforcement Division initiates civil penalty actions under the statutory authority cited in 14 C.F.R. § 13.14 or § 13.18. The FAA has authority to issue orders assessing a civil penalty of up to $400,000 against persons other than individuals and small business concerns and up to $50,000 against individuals and small business concerns. Generally, the penalty for each violation ranges from $1,100 to $27,500, depending on the provision violated and the category of the alleged violator: individual serving as an airman, individual not serving as an airman, small business concern, or someone other than an individual or small business concern. There is no dollar limitation on assessments for violations of the Hazardous Materials Transportation Safety Act or the Hazardous Materials Transportation Regulations, and the penalty for each violation of these requirements ranges from $600 to $30,000. There is no dollar limitation on assessments for violations of the commercial space statute or regulations, and the maximum civil penalty the FAA may impose in commercial space cases is $120,000.
For civil penalties in excess of the dollar limitation on FAA's assessment authority (for other than hazardous materials violations), the FAA has authority to compromise a penalty by issuing a compromise order stating that the FAA believes the entity has violated a statute or regulation and that the FAA is willing to accept a penalty of a specified amount in resolution of the matter. When the FAA issues a compromise order, no adjudicated finding of violation is made a part of the entity's enforcement record (unless the entity agrees otherwise as part of the resolution). If there is no resolution, the matter is referred to the Department of Justice for prosecution in U.S. District Court.
The FAA initiates civil penalty matters by providing notice of the civil penalty or notice of the proposed assessment. An entity may appeal the notice, and a hearing before one of the Department of Transportation's or National Transportation Safety Board's administrative law judges (ALJ) is available. Any decision by an ALJ may be appealed to the FAA Administrator or the NTSB, respectively. Final decisions by the Administrator or the NTSB may be appealed to a United States court of appeals. The following links provide information regarding civil penalty adjudications:
- FAA Hearing Docket for Civil Penalty Adjudication Provides the FAA Hearing Docket's contact information, case search tool, and other resources.
- Regulations.gov — The Federal Repository for Department of Transportation Decisions Provides searchable ALJ decisions from the Department of Transportation's Office of Hearings.