Question: What should I do If I’m arrested carrying a firearm into an airport?
Benson Varghese: There are two ways for a firearm case to be prosecuted at the state level when a person carries that firearm into the airport. The first and perhaps the most common way to proceed is through a misdemeanor unlawful carrying of a weapon charge. The second is to charge the person with the felony of unlawfully carrying a weapon in a prohibited place. The legislature, as of September 1st 2015, enacted a new provision for that felony law, which says:
“If you carry a weapon into an airport and the officers or the agents for TSA believe that you did so unintentionally and you follow their directions, they are allowed to give you the opportunity to take that weapon back to your car or back to a secure location and for them not to prosecute you for an offense.”
However, that law just went into effect on September the 1st of 2015. As a result, many agents don’t even know that provision even exists, so for the time being and until this information is widely known, you should expect an arrest and charges to be filed. Understand that although the law allows TSA agents to give you an opportunity to remove the weapon, it does not require them to give you that opportunity, so an agent may simply be too busy or be having a bad day and say, “I’m sorry, you are under arrest!” and there’s nothing you can do to force them to use that provision.
However, once that case is filed or you’re arrested, immediately contact a defense attorney. It is not at all uncommon for us to successfully obtain a dismissal of those charges or a no-bill on the felony cases if we handle those cases appropriately. Prosecutors generally understand that people can forget that they had a weapon in their luggage or carry-on, and didn’t take the proper steps to travel with a handgun. They understand that these things happen. If approached correctly and if the person does not have a prior criminal history, it’s certainly possible to get a misdemeanor dismissed on the felony—if that person had a CHL and simply forgot about the handgun in their suitcase. It’s certainly possible to go to the grand jury and make a presentation that says:
"Had the TSA agent allowed for them to step out, they would’ve done that. They were not given that opportunity. The right thing to do here is to no-bill the case and not proceed as a felony."
Contact an attorney immediately so that those options can be explored.