If You’re Caught with Gun at LAX Airport, Do You Need to Know You Had it?
The federal government has the right to enact reasonable time, place, and manner restrictions limiting the right to possess a firearm.
Airports are unique locations in that both state and federal law enforcement have jurisdiction. This means both the FBI and the state airport police are able to make arrests.
It’s possible to legally fly with a firearm, but only after complying with TSA guidelines. Any passenger should speak with airport authorities before making any attempt to board an airplane with a firearm to ensure protocols are followed.
Generally, unloaded firearms can be stored checked baggage if they are secured in a locked container. California has statutes prosecutors use to charge someone with the possession of a firearm at the airport.
For more information, our Los Angeles criminal defense lawyers are reviewing below.
California Penal Code 171.5 PC
Penal Code 171.5 makes it a crime to knowingly possess specific weapons in any sterile area of California airports, such as
- imitation firearm,
- Taser or stun gun,
- BB gun.
The statute also prohibits the frame of a firearm or ammunition in the “sterile” area of an airport.
The sterile area is described as those areas of the airport that are beyond the initial TSA screening location which has metal detectors and body scanners.
If you violate Penal Code 171.5 unlawful possession of a weapon at the airport, you are facing a misdemeanor crime punishable by:
- Six months in a county jail,
- A fine to $1,000, or both.
You could also be charged with other related crimes depending on the circumstances, such as:
- Penal Code 25400(a)(2) PC – carrying a concealed firearm,
- Penal Code 25850(a) PC – carrying a loaded firearm in public place.
What If I Didn’t Know I Had the Gun in My Luggage?
A lot of people tell me when they get charged with these cases at the LAX airport that they didn’t realize the gun was in their luggage as they board the plane or go through the x-ray machine and they end up getting arrested at the airport.
They miss their flight and are taken to police headquarters. They probably post a bail or are released on their own recognizance and then they have a court date.
I get the call and the client tells me they didn’t know the gun was there and then it’s up to your defense attorney to show the prosecutors that you truly didn’t know it was there and the circumstances of your case.
Sometimes you can do that. I’ve had some success. I’ve gotten some cases dismissed by the prosecutors because they agreed that we presented enough evidence to prove that the client did not know they had a gun when they attempted to get through security.
This is where they usually catch the person because it goes through the metal detector and they see the gun. So, it’s actually fairly common at the LAX airport, believe it or not.
However, there are some circumstances where the person is just downright negligent with how they deal with the gun.
Further, their story doesn’t make any sense and the prosecutors will not get rid of those cases and they’ll want a conviction and appropriate punishment.
I will tell you though, the Jury Instructions for the possession of a gun at an airport, do require that the person knew that the gun was there. Sometimes a family member packs their back, accidentally puts the gun in there.
There’s a whole variety of scenarios that I’ve seen. But you really have to have a strong argument, number one, for the prosecutors to consider not filing the case.
I get a lot of pre-filing where I send a letter to the prosecutors who are dealing with the case before the arraignment and try to convince them not to file it from the get-go.
I know what to present depending on the circumstances of your case, and sometimes the case is filed and we’re able to present evidence to show the client had no idea the gun was there. But you have to realize, all they have to prove is:
- that you possessed the gun, and
- you had knowledge that it was there.
They’ve already got half the battle when they catch somebody putting in luggage that’s got a gun in it.
The only issue is; did they know or should they have reasonably known the gun was there? So, it’s a fact-intensive investigation.
Criminal Defense for Gun Possession at the LAX Airport
If you or a loved one has been arrested for bringing a gun into the Los Angeles International Airport, what we have to do is get a meeting, go over everything.
Let’s see what evidence we can bring to bear to be able to show that the client had no idea that the gun was there.
We may need some letters from some witnesses that can be interviewed so that we can show the prosecutors that the client had no idea that the gun was there.
And of course, when they get you at the airport, I can tell you right now, they’re thinking of that exact argument, so they’re going to try to do everything they can to either:
- get you to admit that you knew the gun was there, or
- get some evidence together so they can make the argument to the prosecutor that you had knowledge that gun was there; and
- you were reckless in how you handled it.
Therefore, you should be prosecuted for trying to bring a gone onto an airplane at the airport.
So, you’ve come to the right place. This is a tough charge to swallow because most people are smart enough to realize there’s no way they’re getting a gun through the metal detector at an airport — one of the most heavily scrutinized areas.
But some people bring drugs to the airport; some people bring guns to the airport. They put it in their luggage and they don’t think the authorities are going to figure it out.
So, it’s difficult for the authorities and police and sometimes the prosecutors, to figure out who are people who just made an honest mistake versus somebody who’s really trying to get a gun onto a plane.
When they think that, you’re in big trouble because they’re thinking about what this person is going to do once they get the gun on the plane. Are they going to take the plan over? Are they going to shoot somebody?
So, you need the best defense. You’ve come to the right place. I’ve been doing this nearly 30 years. I’ve worked for the District Attorney’s office so I know how they think about these cases.
I know how these judges evaluate these cases, and finally, since the early 1990s, I’ve been a criminal defense attorney handling cases just like yours getting successful outcomes.
Pick up the phone. Ask for the best. Ask for a meeting with Ron Hedding.
Hedding Law Firm has two office locations in Los Angeles County. Contact our law firm for a free case evaluation at (213) 542-0940.