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Crime Aboard Aircraft Federal Defense Lawyers

By Spodek Law Group | February 13, 2023
(Last Updated On: October 19, 2023)

Last Updated on: 19th October 2023, 12:24 pm


Crime Aboard Aircraft: Federal Defense Lawyers

Flying on an airplane can be stressful enough without having to worry about crime happening in the close quarters of an aircraft cabin. Unfortunately, as with any public space, criminal activity does sometimes occur on commercial flights. When it does, there are specific laws and jurisdictions that come into play, which is where knowledgeable federal defense lawyers can help.

In this article, we’ll break down the legal issues around crimes committed aboard aircraft, the roles of air marshals and flight crews, and the value of retaining experienced counsel when facing charges. We’ll also discuss some high-profile cases, defenses that have been used, and the potential penalties for different offenses. While scary, arming yourself with information is the best way to stay safe and protect your rights in the unlikely event you find yourself caught up in criminal proceedings.

Laws Covering Crimes Aboard Aircraft

So what specific laws come into play when dealing with criminal charges from acts aboard a commercial flight? Here are some of the main federal statutes to know:

  • Interference with Flight Crew49 U.S. Code § 46504 covers assaulting, intimidating, or threatening flight crews or flight attendants. Penalties can include fines and up to 20 years imprisonment if serious injury results.
  • Weapons Offenses – It is illegal under 49 U.S. Code § 46505 to carry a concealed dangerous weapon aboard an aircraft. Exceptions are made for authorized law enforcement. Penalties include fines and up to 10 years imprisonment.
  • Acts of Violence Against Individuals49 U.S. Code § 46506 covers assault, murder, manslaughter or attempted murder aboard aircraft. It carries penalties up to life imprisonment or death for severe offenses.
  • Destruction of Aircraft – Anyone who damages, destroys, disables, or wrecks an aircraft can face up to 20 years imprisonment per 18 U.S. Code § 32. The death penalty or life imprisonment is possible if death results.

In addition to these federal aviation statutes, prosecutors can also charge suspects with applicable state or local crimes. These could include theft, drug possession, sexual assault, child endangerment, and more.

Penalties for Crimes Aboard Aircraft

The penalties for crimes committed during air travel are severe compared to similar offenses on the ground. This reflects the heightened danger of criminal acts when confined in an aircraft flying at high speeds. Some examples of potential sentences under federal statutes include:

  • Interference with flight crew – Up to 20 years in prison if serious injury results.
  • Weapons charges – Fines and up to 10 years imprisonment.
  • Acts of violence – Up to life imprisonment or death.
  • Destruction of aircraft – Up to 20 years in prison.
  • Theft – Fines and up to 15 years imprisonment.
  • Sexual abuse – 30 years to life imprisonment.

Lesser incidents like intoxication or nonviolent interference typically result in lighter sentences. But federal prosecutors tend to pursue the maximum penalties in severe cases. These substantial sentences are designed to deter criminal acts aboard aircraft. They also provide justice for victims and accountability for those who threaten passenger safety.

Staying Safe While Flying

Aircraft crime is rare, but it does happen. Here are some tips for passengers to stay safe and avoid finding yourself the victim of a crime or caught up in an inflight incident:

  • – Comply with all crew member instructions promptly and keep your cool if disputes arise.
  • – Do not joke about bombs, hijacking or other threats – it’s a felony.
  • – Do not bring prohibited items like weapons or hazardous materials aboard flights.
  • – Be alert and aware of suspicious activity, but avoid confrontation.
  • – Do not leave personal items unattended or accept packages from strangers.
  • – Avoid becoming excessively intoxicated on flights.
  • – Cooperate fully with air marshals or other law enforcement.
  • – Prepare for enhanced security screening at airports.

While statistically very safe, flying does involve risks. Following security rules, staying sober, and keeping aware of your surroundings will help ensure smooth travels. But if you do get caught up in legal issues from a flight, consulting an experienced federal defense lawyer is critical. They can protect your rights and build the strongest case possible.

Finding a Lawyer for Crimes on Aircraft

If you or a loved one are under investigation or charged with a crime aboard an aircraft, finding the right lawyer is urgent. Here are tips for identifying skilled counsel:

  • – Look for an aviation law specialty, with deep knowledge of FAA regulations.
  • – Find someone with specific federal criminal defense experience.
  • – Ask about their track record with similar aircraft crime cases.
  • – Select a lawyer you’re comfortable with and who will fight aggressively on your behalf.
  • – Be sure they have resources to handle federal cases in any jurisdiction.
  • – Discuss options for plea deals or alternative resolutions if appropriate.

Don’t take chances with public defenders or lawyers lacking specific experience in aircraft crimes. These are highly complex cases with substantial penalties if convicted. Specialized defense counsel is key.

While we all hope to never need such representation, being prepared is wise. Thoroughly researching lawyers in advance will help ensure your rights are protected. With an experienced attorney’s assistance, even serious aircraft crime accusations can potentially be overcome.

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