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FAA Chief Randy Babbitt Arrested for Wrong-Way DWI

By Andrew Chow, Esq. on December 05, 2011 12:16 PM

FAA chief Randy Babbitt has been grounded after an embarrassing weekend arrest. The head of the Federal Aviation Administration was charged with drunken driving -- on the wrong side of the road.

Babbitt, 65, was arrested about 10:30 p.m. Saturday by police in Fairfax, Va., not far from his home, The Washington Post reports. Babbitt was driving alone, and in the wrong direction on a busy highway.

Babbitt underwent a roadside sobriety test, but police declined to release the results. Virginia law defines drunken driving as "Driving While Intoxicated" -- anything above a .08 blood alcohol level.

In his defense, Babbitt could try to dispute the accuracy of the sobriety test. He could also try to claim he was "involuntarily" drunk, if someone spiked his drink; or that he was forced to drive drunk by threat or by force. It's not clear what defenses, if any, Babbitt may try to claim.

Ironically, the FAA chief's drunken driving arrest came just one day after The Hill newspaper ran an uplifting profile about Babbitt and his commitment to keep Americans safe.

In the Hill article, Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood calls Babbitt "a champion of safety." LaHood explained:

"[Babbitt's] background as a pilot makes him a perfect fit for FAA administrator since he understands what it takes to be a true safety professional and how much trust the American people are placing in us to help them reach their destinations safely."

Babbitt is also quoted in The Hill, joking about having endured "the worst three weeks in Washington" during the FAA's partial shutdown earlier this year.

Babbitt, who was released on his own recognizance, is now on administrative leave from the FAA. Government lawyers are trying to determine what to do, after learning about Babbitt's arrest Monday afternoon, the Post reports.

With the head of the FAA's drunken driving arrest, Babbitt's worst weeks may be yet to come. He's set to appear in court on the DWI charge Feb. 2.

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