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Investigations Division

General Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ's)
What happens if I get a Drug conviction?
What happens if I fail a dangerous drug test?
What happens if I get convicted of a NDRA offense (DUI/Reckless Driving)?
What is Administrative Clemency?

General Suspension and Revocation FAQ's

What is Suspension and Revocation (S&R)?
Suspension or Revocation of a merchant mariner's credential is an option available to the Coast Guard that is intended to correct deficiencies, deter future non-compliance, and minimize risks to persons, property, or the marine environment. A S&R proceeding is the presentation of all relevant evidence and facts surrounding a specific offense committed by a mariner who holds and/or is acting under the authority of a Coast Guard issued merchant mariner credential to a Federal Administrative Law Judge for adjudication and appropriate sanction.

Will S&R action taken by the Coast Guard appear on a background check?
S&R proceedings are purely administrative in nature and will not appear on criminal background checks. However, the offense will remain on the mariner's Coast Guard record and may be considered part of the relevant safety record for use in future Coast Guard activities.

Will S&R on my mariner record prevent me from renewing my license/document?
If your license or document has been revoked by an Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) you will not be able to obtain another license/document without completing the Administrative Clemency process. If your license/document is suspended for a period of time, provided that the suspension period is complete, the renewal of your license/document will not be affected. However, keep in mind that the REC application requires disclosure of any enforcement action taken by the Coast Guard against your license/document.

Drug Convictions

How does the Coast Guard find out about mariner's who get convicted of dangerous drug related offenses?
There are several ways the Coast Guard can find out about a mariner who has received a dangerous drug offense. The most common method is during the license/document renewal process in which the Regional Exam Center conducts a criminal background check. In addition, at times, the Coast Guard receives anonymous tips or the mariner calls a local Coast Guard office to report the conviction. The earlier the conviction is reported to the Coast Guard, the earlier the issue can be resolved.

If I get convicted of a dangerous drug related offense, what impact does this have on my license/document?
46 United States Code (USC) 7704(b) and 46 Code of Federal Regulations (CFR) 5.59 state that a license/document shall be revoked if the holder has been convicted of violating a dangerous drug law of the United States or of a State within 10 years of the Coast Guard initiating the administrative proceedings against that license/document. However, other options do exist for mariners who are interested in keeping their license/document (See the What options are available after a drug conviction? section below).

What constitutes a Drug Conviction?
The Coast Guard defines "Conviction" for it's administrative purposes as "Court action based on a plea of guilty or no contest or that involves deferred adjudication or the imposition of a requirement to attend classes, make contributions of time or money, receive treatment, submit to any manner of probation or supervision, or forgo appeal of the finding of the trial court. The Coast Guard does not consider the conviction expunged without proof that the expungement is due to the conviction's having been in error." Drug convictions are convictions of U.S. or State dangerous drug laws.

What about “medical marijuana” or “recreational marijuana” in States that allow such use?
The Department of Transportation’s Drug and Alcohol Testing Regulation – 49 CFR Part 40 – does not authorize the use of Schedule I drugs, including marijuana, for any reason.  Read this document for further clarification: DOT ODAPC Notice

What options are available after a drug conviction?
Mariners who have received a dangerous drug law conviction have 3 options available to resolve the issue with the Coast Guard.

  1. Hearing: Mariners may elect to be heard at a hearing presided over by a Federal Administrative Law Judge. At the hearing, the Coast Guard will be represented by an Investigating Officer who will have to present a case to prove all allegations made by the Coast Guard. The mariner will have the chance to examine and cross examine witnesses, present evidence, and elect to testify on their own behalf. The mariner may be represented by legal counsel, however, any costs associated with legal representation are the responsibility of the mariner. Regulations on the procedures of the hearing process are contained in 33 CFR Part 20.

  2. Settlement Agreement: The mariner and Coast Guard may elect to enter into a Settlement Agreement to resolve the matter without appearing at a hearing. The settlement agreement must be reviewed and approved by the assigned Administrative Law Judge. Settlement Agreements for dangerous drug convictions will require a 15 month suspension of the mariners license or document. During this suspension period, the mariner will have to "prove cure" and demonstrate a "non-association" with dangerous drugs.

  3. Voluntary Surrender: The mariner may elect to voluntarily surrender their license or document to the Coast Guard in lieu of a hearing or completing a settlement agreement. Voluntary surrender carriers the same weight as if the license or document was revoked. During this process the mariner will relinquish all rights to the license or document and will no longer be able to operate in a position that requires a license or document.

How do I "Prove Cure"?
As part of a settlement agreement completed between the Coast Guard and mariner following a drug conviction, the mariner will be required to prove cure and non-association during the suspension period. If the mariner fails to complete these items, the mariner license or document will be revoked.

  1. Complete a drug rehabilitation program certified by a governmental agency or accepted by an independent professional association. A listing of federally approved programs can be found at the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMSHA) at http://findtreatment.samhsa.gov/list_search.htm
  2. Following the completion of the rehabilitation program, attend a substance abuse monitoring program (such as AA or NA) for a minimum period of one year.
  3. Following the completion of the rehabilitation program, participate in a random, unannounced drug testing program for a minimum period of one year. This program is administered by a Medical Review Officer (MRO). A listing of approved MRO's are provided by the American Association of Medical Review Officers or the Medical Review Officer Certification Counsel.
  4. Obtain a "return to work" letter from the Medical Review Officer.

Who pays for items that are required to prove cure?
The mariner is responsible for all costs associated with completing the cure process.

Positive Drug Tests

How does the Coast Guard find out about positive drug tests?
Marine Employers are required to provide results of all verified positive drug tests to the nearest Coast Guard office.

If I have a positive drug test, what impact does this have on my license/document?
46 United States Code (USC) 7704(c) and 46 Code of Federal Regulations (CFR) 5.59 state that a license/document shall be revoked if the holder is addicted to or is the user of a dangerous drug. However, other options do exist for mariners who are interested in keeping their license/document (See the What options are available after a positive drug test? section below).

What options are available after a positive drug test?
Mariners who came up positive on a drug test have 3 options available to resolve the issue with the Coast Guard.

  1. Hearing: Mariners may elect to be heard at a hearing presided over by a Federal Administrative Law Judge. At the hearing, the Coast Guard will be represented by an Investigating Officer who will have to present a case to prove all allegations made by the Coast Guard. The mariner will have the chance to examine and cross examine witnesses, present evidence, and elect to testify on their own behalf. The mariner may be represented by legal counsel, however, any costs associated with legal representation are the responsibility of the mariner. Regulations on the procedures of the hearing process are contained in 33 CFR Part 20.

  2. Settlement Agreement: The mariner and Coast Guard may elect to enter into a Settlement Agreement to resolve the matter without appearing at a hearing. The settlement agreement must be reviewed and approved by the assigned Administrative Law Judge. Settlement Agreements for dangerous drug convictions will require a 15 month suspension of the mariners license or document. During this suspension period, the mariner will have to "prove cure" and demonstrate a "non-association" with dangerous drugs.

  3. Voluntary Surrender: The mariner may elect to voluntarily surrender their license or document to the Coast Guard in lieu of a hearing or completing a settlement agreement. Voluntary surrender carriers the same weight as if the license or document was revoked. During this process the mariner will relinquish all rights to the license or document and will no longer be able to operate in a position that requires a license or document.

How do I "Prove Cure"?
As part of a settlement agreement completed between the Coast Guard and mariner following a positive drug test, the mariner will be required to prove cure and non-association during the suspension period. If the mariner fails to complete these items, the mariner license or document will be revoked.

  1. Complete a drug rehabilitation program certified by a governmental agency or accepted by an independent professional association. A listing of federally approved programs can be found at the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMSHA) at http://findtreatment.samhsa.gov/list_search.htm
  2. Following the completion of the rehabilitation program, attend a substance abuse monitoring program (such as AA or NA) for a minimum period of one year.
  3. Following the completion of the rehabilitation program, participate in a random, unannounced drug testing program for a minimum period of one year. This program is administered by a Medical Review Officer (MRO). A listing of approved MRO's are provided by the American Association of Medical Review Officers or the Medical Review Officer Certification Counsel.
  4. Obtain a "return to work" letter from the Medical Review Officer.

Who pays for items that are required to prove cure?
The mariner is responsible for all costs associated with completing the cure process.

What happens if I get convicted of a NDRA offense (DUI/Reckless Driving)?

What is the NDRA?
NDRA stands for the National Driver Register Act. The NDRA is a database of drivers who have had their state driver's license suspended or revoked and/or who have been convicted of a serious driving offense, such as driving under the influence of alcohol/drug and reckless driving.

What constitutes a conviction of the NDRA?
46 USC 7703(3) authorizes enforcement action by the Coast Guard against mariners who have been convicted of an offense listed in the NDRA. These offenses include:

  1. Operation of a motor vehicle while under the influence of, while impaired by, alcohol or drugs;
  2. Traffic violations arising in connection with fatal traffic accidents;
  3. Traffic violations arising in connection with reckless driving;
  4. Traffic violations arising in connection with racing on the highways

The Coast Guard defines "Conviction" for it's administrative purposes as "Court action based on a plea of guilty or no contest or that involves deferred adjudication or the imposition of a requirement to attend classes, make contributions of time or money, receive treatment, submit to any manner of probation or supervision, or forgo appeal of the finding of the trial court. The Coast Guard does not consider the conviction expunged without proof that the expungement is due to the conviction's having been in error."

What enforcement action will be taken against my license/document if I get a NDRA conviction?
Typically, a NDRA conviction will result in a suspension of your mariner's license/document. The duration of this suspension depends on many variables, which the Investigating Officer will speak with you about during the process. If your state driver's license has been suspended or revoked, your mariner's license/document will be suspended at least until your state driver's license is returned.

What is Administrative Clemency?

Administrative Clemency is a process through which a mariner may seek to regain his ability to apply for a mariner's license/document after having previously voluntarily surrendered or had their license/document revoked. The process is purely voluntary and the mariner must supply specific information to ensure a favorable decision. Mariners wanting to apply for Administrative Clemency should contact an Investigating Officer at their nearest Coast Guard Sector office.

Can I apply for Administrative Clemency immediately after voluntarily surrendering or having my license/document revoked?
No. If your license/document was revoked/voluntarily surrendered following a drug conviction or positive drug test, then you must wait 3 years to begin the administrative clemency process. For all other offenses, the waiting period is 1 year.

How do I complete the Administrative Clemency process?
The administrative clemency process is very detailed. For more information on the process, contact an Investigating Officer at the nearest Coast Guard Sector office.

Regional Examination Center - Licensing Information

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U.S. Coast Guard Sector Miami
100 MacArthur Causeway
Miami, Florida 33139

Voice:(305) 535-8750
Fax: (305) 535-8740
(305) 535-8742

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Last Modified 5/29/2014