What Happens If I Accidentally Take a Gun to LAX Airport?

Posted by Ronald D. HeddingFeb 28, 2022

I handle many cases in the LAX court in California because people, for one reason or another, are trying to board airplanes with guns, either in their luggage or mostly I see it in their carry-on luggage.

There are all sorts of reasons why people bring guns on planes.  Most of the time, it's because they screw up, don't realize they have the weapon, and end up taking it right through the metal detector. Now they're facing prison time and a whole host of other problems.

Airports are unique locations because both state and federal law enforcement has jurisdiction. The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) and state airport police can make arrests. It is possible to fly with a firearm legally, but only if you comply with TSA guidelines. Passengers need to consult with airport authorities before making any attempt to board an airplane with a gun.

If you are caught with a gun at the Los Angeles International Airport, numerous options might happen to you. So, what's going to happen depends on why that gun was coming on the plane in the first place. 

Believe it or not, the prosecutors are going to have to be able to prove that you knew or reasonably should have known under the circumstances that you had the gun in your carry-on luggage or in your luggage that was being placed on the plane, or I've even seen some people carry it their person.

Our Los Angeles criminal defense lawyers will review this topic more closely below.

Weapons at a California Airport - Penal Code 171.5 PC

Penal Code 171.5 makes it a crime to knowingly possess weapons in any sterile area of California airports, such as:

Weapons at a California Airport - Penal Code 171.5
  • firearm,
  • imitation firearm,
  • Taser or stun gun,
  • BB gun
  • Frame of a firearm,
  • Ammunition.

The “sterile area” is defined as areas of the airport beyond the initial Transportation Security Administration (TSA) screening location, which has metal detectors and body scanners.

If you are convicted of violating Penal Code 171.5 PC, unlawful possession of a weapon at the airport, you are facing the following misdemeanor penalties:

  • Up to six months in county jail,
  • A fine up to $1,000, or both.

Depending on the details of your case, you might also be charged with other related offenses, like:

  • Penal Code 25400(a)(2) PC - carrying a concealed firearm,
  • Penal Code 25850(a) PC - carrying a loaded firearm in a public place.

Close Examination of the Specific Details

To me, that's the first part of a problem for the prosecutors, which is if somebody is carrying a gun on their person or they're trying to put it through the metal detector, they probably made a mistake.

I don't think anybody in their right mind will consider one of those airport metal detectors, or the people who work for the airport will be stupid enough to let a gun on the plane.  They've got training, experience, and equipment that should be able to catch a weapon coming onto a plane. 

It's a disaster if guns get on planes for the airlines, for TSA, and a host of other authorities related to this. So, the bottom line is, when you contemplate what's going to happen, it's going to depend on why that gun was coming on the plane. 

What happened?  Can you substantiate that you just screwed up, and it was a complete mistake, and you didn't realize you had the gun or is something more sinister going on? 

Because if the authorities think there's something more sinister going on and you're bringing a gun on the plane, you will have a real problem.  They're going to want a felony.  They're going to want to send you to prison, and several other things can happen.  The feds could get involved. 

So, the cases I rarely see where people are trying to bring a gun on board because they want to do violence onboard or crash the plane or do something crazy, you don't see that very often.  Those are the worst cases. Those people are going to get the worst treatment.

Negotiation with the Prosecutor for Best Possible Outcome

On the flip side, if someone is making a stupid mistake, then the question becomes, why are they making a silly mistake?  What are the circumstances of them making the silly mistake, and what can I do as your criminal defense attorney to lessen the damage to you? 

Los Angeles Criminal Defense Lawyer

Is it going to be a mitigation situation where we're going to have to bite the bullet, so to speak, and you're going to have to:

  • take a misdemeanor on your record,
  • be put on probation,
  • have to do some community service.

The other option is to mount a strong enough defense to be able to take the case to jury trial and prove you had no idea the gun was going through there, or maybe I can even convince the prosecutors, which I've done in some cases, that this was a complete mistake. 

We've got evidence to show a jury that there's no way this person intended to do this, and we can offer the facts and circumstances that lead to the conclusion that they had no idea the gun was there, no intent to bring it on the plane.  It was a complete and utter mistake.

Contact the Hedding Law Firm for Help

So, we've got to evaluate things.  We have you come in.  We sit down and talk about the gun.  Is the firearm registered to you?  Why is it on there?  Do you have a criminal record?  What happened to cause this gun to be taken on a plane?  Then we can evaluate what the best moves are going forward.

So, if you need the best, you're looking at a severe felony because you brought a gun on a plane or you were perceived to be trying to get a gun on a plane, pick up the phone now.  Ask for a meeting with Ron Hedding.  I stand at the ready to help you. The Hedding Law Firm is based in Los Angeles County and offers a free case review.