What is the punishment for bringing a gun into an airport?
Picture this: You’re standing in the security line at the airport. You’re late for your flight, the line is long, your phone is ringing and you’ve got less than 30 minutes to be in your seat for takeoff. The last thing on your mind is whether or not you checked your bag for prohibited items, such as a handgun. If you live in Texas, chances are you have a few (or more) guns. Here’s what could happen if you are arrested in an airport with a gun.
If you are stopped in DFW Airport, you will be taken to the DFW Airport Jail and your case will be filed in Tarrant County. If you are stopped in Dallas Love Field, your case will be filed in Dallas County.
It is unlawful for an individual to carry a handgun into a secured area of an airport. Travelers who are found carrying a handgun into the secured area of an airport are subject to immediate arrest and confiscation of the weapon. The case can be filed either as a misdemeanor or felony in Texas.
Unlawful Carry of Weapon – Prohibited Place (Felony)
Texas Penal Code Section 46.03 states that a person commits an offense if they intentionally, knowingly, or recklessly possess a firearm when going into a secured area of an airport. This means that once you pass that security threshold, even if you accidentally carried a firearm on your person or in your bag, you have committed a crime. It is NOT a defense to the crime that you are licensed to carry a concealed handgun.
Unlawful Carry of Weapon – Prohibited Place CHL/LTC Holders
There is good news for those individuals who would be facing the felony charge or Unlawful Carry of a Weapon – Prohibited Places. The Texas Legislature created an exception that may be applied to CHL (now LTC) holders. Effective September 1, 2015, Section 46.03 of the Penal Code was amended so that instead of placing someone under arrest, TSA agents may ask the individual to exit the secured area. An individual asked to exit the secured area must immediately comply.
How to Fly with a Gun – Legally
This does not mean that you cannot take a gun with you when you fly. In fact, the TSA and Texas laws allow guns to be transported, so long as they are done so properly in a checked bag. Always check TSA regulations before flying with a weapon in a checked bag. You will need to ensure the firearm is not loaded, declare the firearm, transport it in a locked hard-sided case, ensure the destination allows for the weapon to be transported there, and to have the key to the hard-sided case available should the TSA request an inspection of the weapon. (Some states do not allow this and you may be arrested if you try to bring a gun onto a plane even in a checked bag. New York and New Jersey in particular have this law.)
Penal Code Section 46.03 – Places Weapons Prohibited
Before talking about why an attorney is necessary, let’s cover what will happen as a result of bringing a gun through security. 1) You will be arrested. There used to be some discretion to not arrest offenders, but that is not the world we live in anymore. You will be sent to the jail if you bring a gun through security. 2) You are probably going to miss your flight. Being arrested often takes time and even if you did arrive at the airport the recommended two hours early, you still probably will not get back to the gate in time to make your flight. 3) Your gun will be seized. You may or may not get it back. Most judges will not authorize weapons to be released back to individuals who were arrested. 4) Your case will be filed with the Tarrant County District Attorney’s Office for DFW cases and Dallas County for Love Feild cases for prosecution. And most importantly, 5) you will be charged with a third degree felony or a Class A misdemeanor.
A third degree felony potentially carries a prison sentence up to 10 years and up to a $10,000 fine. Additionally, the federal government could seek up to an $11,000 fine. The point is, you could be facing some tough time and a large chunk of your bank account disappearing just because you forgot that you brought a gun with you to the airport. Additionally, if convicted you may lose additional rights. Also relevant is that Texas Penal Code Section 46.04 makes it illegal for a convicted felon to possess a gun. So if you are convicted of this crime, you may not be able to carry a gun in the future. Being charged with bringing a gun through airport security is a very serious matter.
Texas Penal Code Section 46.02 – UCW – Unlawful Carry Weapon (Misdemeanor)
The State can also file the case as an Unlawful Carry of a Weapon under Section 46.02 of the Penal Code. It is illegal to intentionally or knowingly carry a handgun on a premises not owned or controlled the carrier when the person carrying the handgun is not inside or directly en route to his/her motor vehicle. If the State files the case without the Prohibited Places language, it is a Class A misdemeanor. As such the punishment range would be up to one year in jail and up to a $4,000 fine.
Changes in the law: 2015 Airport UCW Amendments
This new law was passed in hopes of differentiating between individuals who intentionally, knowingly, or recklessly bring a firearm into a secured area and CHL holders who simply forgot that they had their handgun at the airport.
What are the TSA penalties for bringing a gun into an airport?
You arrive home after work one day and a pile of mail is awaiting your review. Magazine, toss. Credit Card application, toss. TIME magazine, maybe later. TSA Notice of Violation…wait, what?
TSA Notice of Violation
When you present yourself to an airport for security inspection, you are subject prosecution under State and Federal law. The Transportation and Security Administration (TSA) has a mission to protection the nation’s transportation systems. Part of that mission is ensuring the Transportation Security Regulations (TSRs) are enforced. TSRs include the prohibition of firearms, regardless of whether they are loaded or not. When you are caught, whether intentionally or unknowingly, with a firearm at an airport, you will receive a civil penalty in the amount of $3,000 from the TSA. When you receive notice of this civil penalty, you have five options to pursue:
- Pursue the Proposed Civil Penalty
- Submit Evidence for Consideration
- Submit Information for Consideration in Support of a Reduction of the Civil Penalty
- Request an Informal Conference
- Request a Formal Hearing
Paying the Proposed Civil Penalty involves either submitting payment of the $3,000 fine by check, money order, or credit card to the TSA.
Submitting Evidence for Consideration involves demonstrating that the TSA violation did not occur as alleged for that the civil penalty proposed is not warranted considering all of the circumstances.
Submitting Information for Consideration in Support of a Reduction of the Civil Penalty involves submitting a written request for reduction of the $3,000 proposed TSA Civil Penalty due to financial hardship or an inability to pay.
Request for an Informal Conference involves a teleconference hearing with a TSA Agent concerning the facts alleged giving rise to the civil penalty and a production of mitigating facts combined with a request for reduced penalty.
Request for a Formal Hearing involves an Administrative Law Judge and a TSA Agent filing a complaint to commence the adjudication process. In this hearing, the TSA will have the burden of proof and both sides will have the opportunity to present witnesses. If you are not pleased with the outcome of the hearing, you may appeal the TSA Decision Maker and ultimately the U.S. Court of Appeals.
The attorneys at Varghese Summersett PLLC regularly handle the TSA hearings as a part of our representation of individuals charged with carrying a gun into an airport. These cases come up frequently and our experience in this area has not only resulted in exceptional results on the criminal cases as well as against the civil and administrative consequences sought to be imposed by the TSA.
If you have been charged with carrying a gun into DFW Airport, Lovefield, or any other airport in Texas, call us today at 817-203-2220 for assistance.
What Can an Attorney Do For You on a Possession of Prohibited Weapon Case?
A skilled attorney may be able to negotiate a dismissal of your case or secure a no-bill through the grand jury (which is when the grand jury decides a felony case should not be prosecuted). They may also be able to resolve the case without a criminal conviction. Depending on the outcome, you may also be eligible for an expunction or non-disclosure of the record.
Forgetting a handgun or firearm in carry-on luggage in unfortunately an easy mistake to make in Texas. Individuals from all walks of lives carry guns in Texas for their own protection, and sometimes they forget the piece of luggage they grabbed to use as a carry-on still has a firearm in it. This article addresses what happens when a person has a gun or firearm in their luggage in Texas.
DFW Airport has the largest amount of offenders who try to carry a gun through airport security. In 2014 alone, the TSA seized 120 guns from would-be passengers. In August of 2013, Shemane Nugent, wife of rockstar and gun activist Ted Nugent, was arrested at DFW Airport for attempting to take a Smith & Wesson 38 Special revolver onto a plane. In September of 2014, Eric Laffoon was caught at a security gate with a folding rifle loaded with 15 rounds of ammunition in his carry-on bag. Are these people really looking to smuggle guns onto planes for nefarious purposes? Generally not. Shemane Nugent, Eric Laffoon, and most of the other people arrested all said the same basic thing. “I forgot it was there.”
Most people charged with bringing a gun through airport security are law-abiding citizens of Texas who are not attempting to commit a crime but are so used to carrying their guns that they just forget they have them until it’s too late and they have been arrested. If you know someone in this situation, have them call us at (817) 203-2220 or contact us online:
Also published on Medium.