Pepper Spray Irritates TSA
And a passenger draws a penalty for an ill-timed disclosure
by Peter Quinter, guest columnist
Our beloved Transportation Security Administration (TSA) has the responsibility of screening passengers to “ensure that certain items and persons prohibited from flying don’t board commercial airliners.” This is accomplished through 43,000 Transportation Security Officers (TSOs) located at 450 airports around the United States. While I am waiting in line to be screened, there seems always to be one energetic TSO screaming at my fellow passengers to take our shoes off, remove most liquids, take our belts off, take out our laptops, etc. It is hard to remember that the official mission of the TSA is to “protect the Nation’s transportation systems to ensure freedom of movement for people and commerce.”
I do have one funny story to tell you about the TSA and a certain passenger.
While the TSA regulations specifically prohibit the carrying on board an aircraft, or even into the airport, any weapon or explosive device, a particular passenger had a pepper spray pen with him. The pepper spray pen was not detected by the TSO when the passenger’s body and luggage went through those radiation-emitting devices.
That is bad enough, but what the passenger did next was a mistake. After passing through TSA, he then approached the crew of the aircraft at his gate of departure, and handed over the pepper spray pen to the gate agents with some sort of statement that the TSOs did not detect the pen during the screening process. Predictably, the passenger was then approached by law enforcement, interrogated, and not allowed to fly on that aircraft. The passenger subsequently received a Letter of Investigation from the TSA with the threat of a $11,000 penalty for attempting to compromise a security system utilized by TSA.
Seems to me that the gate agents and TSA should simply have said “thank you” to the passenger for turning over the pepper spray pen, rather than going on a witch hunt. Perhaps the lesson the TSA wants to get across to people is not to tell the truth. If the passenger had kept his mouth shut, he would have kept his pepper spray pen, not missed his flight, and not have to pay a potential penalty of $11,000. Plus, I guess now the TSOs will start yelling at passengers that the list of prohibited items includes pepper spray pens.
One more thing. While it is prohibited to carry on board an aircraft any pepper spray, you may still transport it in your checked luggage, according to the TSA website. Go figure!
Please call or email me with any questions or comments.
Copyright © 2011, Becker & Poliakoff
About Peter Quinter
10 May 2012: Peter Quinter is now a Shareholder in the law firm of GrayRobinson and Chair of the firm’s Customs & International Trade Law Group. Based in the firm’s Miami and Ft. Lauderdale offices, Quinter principally represents persons and companies involved in international trade and transport. Editor of the GrayRobinson Customs and International Law Blog, Quinter is widely recognized for his expertise in international and trade law.
You can contact Peter Quinter at [email protected] or at (954) 270-1864.
The opinions expressed in this article are those of its author and do not purport to reflect the opinions or views or Descartes Datamyne. In addition, this article is for general information purposes only and it’s not intended to provide legal advice or opinions of any kind and my not be used for professional or commercial purposes. No one should act, or refrain from acting, based solely on this article without first seeking appropriate legal or other professional advice.
Date posted: October 11, 2011