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'Stolen Plane DUI' Lands Man in Hospital, Then in Jail

By Jenny Tsay, Esq. on March 05, 2014 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

Getting arrested for an airplane DUI is probably the worst way to try and satisfy one's pilot license requirements. But that's exactly what a Nevada man says he was trying to do.

Paul Weddle, 47, of Henderson, allegedly took off in a plane from a small airport outside Las Vegas while under the influence Sunday night. After a scuffle with police upon landing, Weddle submitted to a voluntary Breathalyzer test and registered a 0.132 percent blood-alcohol level, according to the Las Vegas Review-Journal.

So how exactly does one get a DUI from taking an airplane out for a spin?

Airplane DUI Alleged

In Weddle's case, an employee of the company that owns the plane called police and reported that an unauthorized person had taken off and landed in the plane at least three times, according to the Review-Journal.

After ordering Weddle to step out of the aircraft, which he initially refused to do, officers ended up tackling him. Waddle was taken first to a hospital for treatment of his injuries, and then to jail.

Weddle is being charged with "flying under the influence." Nevada law prohibits anyone from operating an aircraft under the influence of alcohol in a reckless manner. What's considered "reckless" is determined by federal regulations.

Under those regulations, careless or reckless operation of an aircraft means using an airplane in a manner that endangers the life or property of another person. So that's what prosecutors will likely have to prove in order to convict.

Unlawful Taking of an Aircraft

In addition to his airplane DUI, Weddle is also being charged with the unlawful taking of a motor vehicle, the Review-Journal reports.

In the Silver State, the unlawful taking of a vehicle includes any device that can transport people and property upon a public highway, waterway or airway. So the statute can apply to the taking of airplanes.

The key to convicting Weddle of "unlawful taking" is to show that he took or drove away the aircraft without its owner's consent. That's what's alleged in this case, though, as the Review-Journal points out, "it's still not clear how Weddle gained access to the plane" in the first place.

Both the airplane DUI and unlawful taking charges are gross misdemeanors in Nevada. If convicted of a gross misdemeanor, Weddle could be sentenced to jail for up to 364 days and fined up to $2,000.

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