Your kids are getting ready for school and your spouse is running off to work for an early meeting. You have to be at the airport in two hours and you haven’t begun packing. Sandwiches are thrown into boxes, backpacks filled with yesterday’s homework, and the kids escorted onto the school bus.

Now it’s only an hour and a half before the plane leaves the tarmac. You grab the small leather bag from the bottom of your closet and start throwing clothes in. Top it off with a toothbrush, hairbrush and Sunday’s paper, and you are out the door. Zipping through traffic, you secure an elusive front-row parking spot and shuffle through the masses to TSA security, with 30 minutes to spare.

You are directed to the short security line with others who appear well-traveled, and breathe a sigh of relief. With your laptop in a separate bin, your liquids in their properly designated Ziploc, and suitcase on the conveyor belt, you bend down to take off your shoes for screening.

Then suddenly, everything stops. TSA agents push forward and surround you.

"Is this your bag?" they ask.

You glance at the bag and your mind begins racing until it stops at the most unsettling thought. You groan inwardly as you realize what's inside the bag. Some years ago, this forgotten suitcase was used as "child-proof" storage for the gun that you never use.

Now you are hauled away to an interrogation room, arrested, invited to make a several thousand-dollar bond, and ultimately charged with a felony offense. And of course, you missed your flight as well.

You hire a great attorney and, eventually, the criminal case against you is over; it's all behind you. Then, 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

The Transportation and Security Administration (TSA) has a mission to protection the nation’s transportation systems. Part of that mission is ensuring that the Transportation Security Regulations (TSRs) are enforced. So, when you present yourself to an airport for security inspection, you are subject to prosecution under state and federal law.

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 of up to $7,500 from the TSA. When you receive notice of this civil penalty, you have five options to pursue:

  1. Pursue the proposed civil penalty
  2. Submit evidence for consideration
  3. Submit information for consideration in support of a reduction of the civil penalty
  4. Request an informal conference
  5. Request a formal hearing

Paying the proposed civil penalty involves submitting payment of the 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, and 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 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.

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