The TSA Civil Penalty

TSA also has rules in place concerning what you can bring through the security checkpoint at the airport and before boarding a plane. This article explains what happens if TSA accuses you of bringing a weapon, firearm, drugs, marijuana, or other contraband into the security checkpoint area. The rules might apply to both your carry on bags and your checked luggage.

If you violate any of these rules, then you could receive correspondence from TSA called the Notice of Violation (“NOV”) that proposes a civil penalty. At Sammis Law Firm, we help passengers demand a formal administrative hearing to contest the findings by TSA and the civil penalty.

In some cases, the NOV and request for civil penalties are brought against passengers engaged in nondisruptive and nonviolent protest. In those cases, the regulations can be challenged as an unconstitutional infringement on the passenger’s First Amendment rights.

Additionally, the passenger might bring a civil suit for money damages that can survive qualified immunity such that TSA or its agents can be held personally liable if their actions were in retaliation for the protected expression.

Attorney to Challenge the TSA Penalty in Tampa, FL

The attorneys at Sammis Law Firm help clients who are arrested at the Tampa International Airport or other airports in Florida or those assessed a civil penalty but not arrested.

We also represent clients if their money, cash, or other valuables are seized by law enforcement officers or federal agents at airports throughout Florida. If the authorities seized your cash at the airport, then we can fight to get it back quickly.

Call us to find out whether you should pay the civil penalty or hire an attorney to contest the allegations.

Call 813-250-0500 today.

Limits to TSA’s Authority

The federal regulations that govern the operation of Transportation Security Administration (TSA) security areas emphasize the exclusive control that the TSA exercises over those areas.

For example, the regulations provide that “no person may [proceed beyond] the security checkpoint [ ] without complying with the procedures put in place by the TSA.” 49 C.F.R. § 1540.105(a)(2). Further, “[n]o person, even an airline attendant, may interfere with TSA screening personnel.” 49 C.F.R. § 1540.109.

The TSA controls one’s access to the “sterile area of the airport” as explained in 49 C.F.R. § 1540.105(a) (2). TSA also “controls the area beyond where the passenger’s passport is checked.” Id.

Despite these broad regulations, the law also imposes limits on the authority of TSA.

While aviation security is undoubtedly important, we must be diligent in protecting the rights of all Americans, such as their freedom from being subjected to humiliating and intrusive searches by TSA agents, especially when there is no obvious cause …. It is important that the rules and boundaries of our airport screening process be transparent and easily available to travelers so that proper restraints are in place on screeners. Travelers should be empowered with the knowledge necessary to protect themselves from a violation of their rights and dignity.

–Senator Rand Paul

See Burgess Everett, Rand Paul Files Bills that Take Aim at TSA, Politico (June 15, 2012).

Contesting the TSA NOV – Demand a Formal Hearing

What happens after you file a timely demand for a formal hearing?

After filing the demand for a formal hearing, you will receive a Notice of Assignment of Administrative Law Judge. The notice gives notice that a case has been transferred to the United States Coast Guard, Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) Office for adjudication under 49 CFR Part 1503 pursuant to an Interagency Agreement signed between the TSA and the U.S. Coast Guard.

An Administrative Law Judge is then assigned to hear the matter. All future pleadings and correspondence must include the assigned Docket Number 19-TSA-0038.

The date, time, and location of the hearing is assigned by the Administrative Law Judge in accordance with 49 CFR Section 1503.615.

The parties or their designated representatives are DIRECTED to be present to submit their respective case or defense by oral, documentary, or demonstrative evidence, to submit rebuttal evidence, and to conduct any cross-examination that may be required for a full and true disclosure of the facts.

In addition, the parties are DIRECTED to be present with written Proposed Findings of Fact and Conclusions of Law, to be presented to the assigned Administrative Law Judge, as to be determined, in accordance with 49 CFR Section 1503.653(c).

Unless otherwise provided for, all correspondence and pleadings shall be sent to the Enforcement Docket Clerk and ALJ Docketing Center.

A Copy of all correspondence and pleadings shall also be filed simultaneously with the AU and on each party. Service to the ALJ and on all other parties is permitted by mail or personal delivery.

Service via e-mail or fax is also permitted on TSA attorneys and the assigned ALJ, as prior written consent for electronic service from their offices has been provided and is maintained with the Enforcement Docket Clerk.

If you desire to electronically serve another party, you need to obtain written consent with that party and file that consent with the Enforcement Docket Clerk. 49 C.F.R. § 1503.409(b).

The attorney that represents the TSA in these actions is usually classified as the Supervisory Field Counsel.

If a party serves a pleading on any other party during the course of hearing proceedings by electronic mail or facsimile transmission, the party making service must file with the Enforcement Docket Clerk a copy of the consent of the receiving party to accept such method of service.

All filings should be made on 8 V2 x 11 inch paper and must be typewritten or legibly handwritten.

Filing an Answer to the TSA Complaint

Be sure to review the rules that govern the TSA Civil Penalty matters.  Once a complaint has been filed, you have 30 days to file an Answer or written motion.

You can also demand discovery on a pre-hearing basis including a subpoena or subpoena duces tecum to obtain the surveillance video.

Depending on the retention policy at the airport, the surveillance video might be destroyed by the airport authorities or TSA unless you immediately serve a “preservation letter” on the custodian of the record within 10-30 days of the incident.

Sending the preservation letter for all of the video is the most important thing your attorney can do during the early stages of the case.

§1503.611 Answer.

(a) Filing.

A respondent must file a written answer to the complaint in accordance with §1503.429, or may file a written motion pursuant to §1503.629(f)(1)-(4) instead of filing an answer, not later than 30 days after service of the complaint. Subject to paragraph (c) of this section, the answer may be in the form of a letter, but must be dated and signed by the person responding to the complaint. An answer may be typewritten or may be legibly handwritten. The person filing an answer should suggest a location for the hearing when filing the answer.

(b) Contents.

An answer must specifically state any affirmative defense that the respondent intends to assert at the hearing. A person filing an answer may include a brief statement of any relief requested in the answer.

(c) Specific denial of allegations required.

A person filing an answer must admit, deny, or state that the person is without sufficient knowledge or information to admit or deny, each numbered paragraph of the complaint. Any statement or allegation contained in the complaint that is not specifically denied in the answer may be deemed an admission of the truth of that allegation. A general denial of the complaint is deemed a failure to file an answer.

(d) Failure to file answer.

A person’s failure to file an answer without good cause, as determined by the ALJ, will be deemed an admission of the truth of each allegation contained in the complaint

Additional Resources

Can TSA Seize Cash for Forfeiture at the Airport? – Find out why TSA is not permitted to seize cash for forfeiture. Nevertheless, TSA agents often illegally detain travelers with more than $10,000 cash before domestic flights.

This article was last updated on Tuesday, May 21, 2019.