Gun in Airport Charges
I accidentally left a gun in my bag at the airport. Now what?
It all started when you began preparing for the trip a few days ago. You packed the day or two beforehand. You made sure to double-check hotel and car reservations. You verified your schedule with your friends or family. You checked in for your flight the day before. You left the house or the office with plenty of time to deal with the traffic. You got to the airport with enough time to spare. You checked your luggage, ate a quick snack, and then went to the dreaded TSA checkpoint.
But you were prepared. You took off your belt and emptied your pockets before getting in line. When it was your turn, you were like a pro. You slipped off your shoes and filled the two gray plastic bins without holding up the family of five behind you. You walked through the screener without a beep. Home free! Now you just need to put your shoes back on and you can relax until your flight starts boarding.
But then your stuff doesn’t come through the x-ray machine. No big deal. TSA is always slow. You’re through the worst part. You can just wait.
Then, you wait longer. And longer. This isn’t normal.
Then, you see a police officer talking to the blue-shirt TSA folks. The officer looks at you and starts walking in your direction.
Then it clicks! The backpack or briefcase that you use as your carry-on bag. The one that you carry every day. The one that you keep your pistol in the bottom of on a daily basis. That’s the bag that the officer is holding! You forgot to take your pistol out of your bag!
And then he says, “Is this bag yours?” You nod, trying to keep a straight face, but you’re already turning bright red. “Can you come with me please?”
And that’s how you were charged with Carrying a Weapon in an Airport Terminal in violation of Virginia Code §18.2-287.01.
If you have been charged with Carrying a Weapon in an Airport Terminal (Virginia Code §18.2-287.01) ...
At this point, if you are a somewhat normal person, you are probably freaking out. I understand. That is normal. Most of your fear is from not knowing what will happen. That is normal, too.
This is where I come in: I can get you through this process. I know what this road looks like. Here is the plan:
1. Read the remainder of this article.
These are the sections that follow:
- Don’t make any more statements.
- It’s a misdemeanor. It’s serious, but you are going to survive.
- What will happen in court?
- Will I get my gun back?
- TSA will attempt to get you to pay some money.
2. Call the office for a free telephone consultation.
I don't charge for these consultations. Contact the office and I will be happy to discuss the specifics of your situation and review the different options that may be available in your case.
3. Stop worrying, and let me guide you through this process.
If you are reading this article, you have most likely already been charged with Carrying a Weapon in an Airport Terminal (Va. Code §18.2-287.01). And if you have already been charged, then you have most likely already spoken with the police officer(s) at the airport.
In the unlikely event that you have not made any statements to the police, do not say anything! Seriously. You should politely decline to make any statements without your attorney, and you should not consent to anything.
Carrying a Weapon in an Airport Terminal is a misdemeanor in Virginia. It’s serious. But you are going to survive.
Most likely, the officer released you on a summons. The summons is the flimsy piece of yellow paper with all of your information filled in. It looks almost identical to a regular traffic ticket. The good news is you get to continue on with your trip. Hopefully, you did not miss your first flight. The bad news is that you will probably be worrying about this charge for the rest of your trip.
The charge itself is “Carrying a Weapon in an Airport Terminal.” The specific statute is Virginia Code §18.2-287.01. If you feel like reading through the statutory language, go for it. The bottom line is this: the charge is a Class 1 misdemeanor.
In Virginia, a Class 1 misdemeanor is punishable by up to 12 months in jail and/or a fine of $2,500. It is a criminal offense that will appear as a criminal conviction on your criminal record.
Obviously, in addition to the possibility of jail and a fine, there may be other collateral consequences for many people. One of the most common concerns is that a criminal conviction may impact your current job or your eligibility for a job in the future. Similarly, a criminal conviction can impact security clearances and background checks.
Even though this charge is a misdemeanor, and even though you should obviously take it seriously, you will survive this ordeal. This is a manageable situation. For my clients, I explain that they must let me guide them through the process. There is no magic spell that can make the process go away. There are no shortcuts. But this is very much a manageable situation. Together, we will get you through this process, one step at a time.
That is the million-dollar question. And the quintessential legal answer is: it depends.
Each case is truly unique. After I speak to you about the details of your case, I may be able to offer a prediction as to the possible outcomes. However, at the beginning of a case, it is usually too early to draw any strong conclusions. When you call the office, we will review the different ways your situation may develop.
As the case progresses, I will request discovery from the prosecutor (i.e., the Commonwealth’s Attorney). As we prepare for court, I will communicate directly with the Commonwealth’s Attorney about your case. At the appropriate time (usually as we get closer to your court date), I will ask you to make certain decisions about how we proceed. At each step along the way, I will explain where things stand. I will keep you informed.
It is important to note that, even if you think you are 100% guilty, there may still be options to avoid a criminal conviction. You need to call the office so we can review your options.
Answer: Maybe, but don’t get your hopes up.
Generally speaking, firearm forfeitures are governed by §19.2-386.29. If a firearm is used in a crime, the court is required to order the weapon forfeited. However, it doesn’t happen in every case. I will explain this more when you call the office.
The bottom line is this: we need to focus on trying to avoid a criminal conviction. If we can get your gun back at the same time, that will be icing on the cake.
As you research this charge, you will likely read about a “notice of violation” (or “NOV”) that you will receive from the TSA. This is the TSA’s way of fining you as “punishment” for bringing a gun through airport security. It is considered a “civil penalty” from the TSA (as opposed to the criminal charge from the Commonwealth of Virginia).
Do not freak out about the dollar amounts that you read about on the Internet. I will explain what you can expect, and I will explain how you can very likely reduce the total amount of the civil penalty.
Again: we need to focus on avoiding a criminal conviction. The notice of violation will be an important part of it, but you need to focus on the criminal side of things first.
The next step is to call the office.
Feel free to call the office at (757) 333-7529. Alternatively, feel free to use the contact page to submit an inquiry through this website.
During the consultation, we will discuss the specifics of your situation, and we will review the different options that may be available. After you call the office, you will be much more at ease knowing that you do not have to go through this process alone. Let me help you through this process.
Once again: even if you think you are 100% guilty, there may still be options to avoid a criminal conviction. You need to call the office so we can review your options.
Remember that although the office is located in Virginia Beach, my practice extends across all of Virginia. I can handle your case regardless of whether you were charged in Washington Dulles, Richmond International, Reagan Washington National, Norfolk International, Roanoke Regional, or Newport News / Williamsburg International.
After-hours and weekend appointments: Let’s face it; most people cannot take off work in the middle of the week between 9-5. If you need an appointment after normal business hours or on a weekend, I understand. The best option is to use the contact page to schedule a telephone appointment. Otherwise, call the office or leave a voicemail with your information: (757) 333-7529.