John F. Kennedy International Airport in New York (JFK) is the nation’s fifth-busiest airport with more than 59 million passengers passing through every year. JFK also handles more than 1.2 million metric tons of cargo and mail each year, making it the nation’s seventh-busiest air cargo facility.1
A simple Google search using “JFK arrests” shows drug smuggling is a significant issue and possibly the most common criminal act for which people are arrested. When arrested at JFK, the accused may have to deal with federal Homeland Security agents, Port Authority police officers or NYPD officers. They will conduct any initial investigation and determine any potential crimes that might have occurred.
Depending on the potential severity of the crime, the accused could face federal charges or transfer to local law enforcement and processing through the New York courts and penal system. The criminal charges might be misdemeanors or felonies, and the penalties range from significant fines to lengthy imprisonment. If arrested at JFK Airport, the experienced airport criminal defense attorneys at Brill Law Group can help you to fight the charges and ensure you benefit from your legal rights. The following is a closer look at some of the more common arrests and charges JFK passengers are likely to encounter.
Arrests for drug possession
Drug smuggling is a highly lucrative criminal enterprise that encourages many to take chances they otherwise might not in order to make a quick buck. As one of the nation’s busiest airports and located in a coastal region, JFK is a primary importation point for illegal cargo, including illegal drugs.
Recently, a 61-year-old New Jersey woman tried smuggling nearly 10 pounds of heroin in bags shaped to look like cooked chickens. Customs agents at JFK confiscated the drugs, which were worth an estimated $300,000. The woman now faces federal felony charges for smuggling narcotics in a case investigated by Homeland Security Investigations.2
Illegal drug possession comes in many forms, ranging from carrying prescribed drugs without l prescription to possessing and smuggling heroin and other federally banned drugs. Likewise, the penalties ranges from misdemeanors and fines, to felonies that carry long prison sentences.
One of the more common forms of drug possession is marijuana possession. Many states allow recreational use of marijuana, and most have medical marijuana laws in place to help people cope with ongoing pain, anxiety and other physical ailments. Yet, federal law bans marijuana, and carrying it in your luggage or on your person could land you in jail. State laws typically ban the transportation of marijuana via airports, and New York is no exception.
Anyone caught carrying more than 25 grams of marijuana at JFK and other New York airports faces a potential jail sentence and fines for violating New York Penal Code Section 220. Other states also ban interstate transportation of marijuana, even if it is legal for recreational use within respective state boundaries.
Arrests for assault
As occurs at any busy public facility, people tend to lose their tempers, argue and occasionally fight while at JFK airport. Arrests for assault at JFK generally are treated as either class D or class B violent felony assaults. The difference depends on whether or not an assailant used a weapon, the victim’s age, the intent of the assault and extent of injuries.
An example is a March 2017 case, in which a 26-year-old man retrieved a tire iron from his car and attacked a 25-year-old man. Police stopped and arrested the man near the airport, recovered the tire iron he used as a weapon and charged him with:
• Criminal possession of a weapon
• Second-degree assault
• Fleeing police
• Resisting arrest
The cause of the assault was not reported, but the victim sought medical treatment for cuts and bruises.
While the above example had a clearly identified assailant and victim, not all assault cases are so apparent. Many times, conflicting stories and witness accounts make it very difficult to know who is the aggressor and at fault for a felony assault. It is even possible for both parties to be arrested and charged with felony assault.
Anyone arrested for assault at JFK needs an experienced airport criminal defense attorney who will ensure legal defense rights are upheld. An experienced attorney can help obtain witness names and contacts, secure evidence from airport video surveillance and build an effective case.
Arrests for DUI
Passenger airline flights can be very scary for many people. Fear of flying and other factors, such as delays between flights, often lead to alcohol abuse prior to boarding aircraft at JFK. When airline passengers become intoxicated and act out in unacceptable fashion, they often run afoul of the law.
If arrested for DUI and other crimes related to drinking and alcohol abuse at JFK, you might not wind up in the state court system. Unlike a DUI or drunk and disorderly crime committed on public streets, crimes related to drunkenness at JFK and other airports across the nation often run afoul of federal law. That means prosecution through the federal court system.
Why would someone face a felony for drinking too much at an airport? Because interfering with airline operations violates federal law. That is especially true if the drunken behavior threatens the safety of others, leads to unwanted sexual contact or causes damage to airport property. Being drunk does not excuse the illegal behavior. Often, it encourages it and winds up landing the offender in jail.
A good example is an August 2016 arrest of a woman who drove her car on an adjacent service road while under the influence of alcohol. She lost control of the car, jumped a curb separating the service road from the airport, and struck an airport building. A National Guardsman stationed inside the building suffered serious injuries that required medical treatment. The woman admitted to driving under the influence of alcohol and was charged with:
• Driving while intoxicated
• Criminal possession of a controlled substance
• Criminal mischief
An experienced airport criminal defense attorney can help get charges reduced or dropped when appropriate. One also at all times helps to ensure civil rights are upheld during a DUI prosecution arising from activity in or near JFK airport.
Arrests for carrying a firearm
There was a time when carrying a firearm in an airport or on an airliner was legal. The attacks of 9/11 changed that, though, and almost no one is allowed to carry a firearm in an airport or on a public airliner landing in or departing from New York. Yet, people still do, often by accident, but sometimes on purpose.
JFK airport is subject to three levels of firearms regulation: Federal, state and local. All three are highly restrictive. Except for a very small number of people with carry permits, New York City requires firearm owners to keep their firearms in their homes. Even people licensed to carry firearms in the rest of New York State do not have the right to carry loaded firearms on their person or in their cars while traveling in the city.
State law is less restrictive, but still disallows you to carry a firearm of any sort without permits – and those are hard to obtain in New York state. (Since Kennedy airport is in New York City, anyone departing that airport while armed without a New York City permit is subject to arrest.) Federal law provides an additional layer of regulation by banning loaded firearms in airport areas. Passengers may carry unloaded firearms in their checked luggage, but they must have the correct permits in place and the firearm packaged properly.
Those who travel from states with more permissive gun laws, or those who are traveling to go hunting are among the more common airline transporters of firearms in checked luggage. Less common are those who carry firearms to the airport checkpoint. That is because federal law strictly prohibits carrying a firearm, whether loaded or not, inside airport facilities. Doing so violates federal law and could earn the accused a federal felony charge.
Arrests for carrying a weapon
At airports outside of New York, if you want to take a firearm with you, you must ensure the gun is unloaded and packed in a locked hard gun case. The ammunition cannot be with the firearm. You must pack that in a separate container. You also must declare the items before boarding the plane. Otherwise, you might find yourself facing a potential felony charge for unlawful possession of a firearm in an airport or on an airliner.
In New York City, if the firearm leaves the airport without a New York City permit, none of the above applies, and you could be subject to arrest even if you have followed the rules at your home airport outside of New York.
Firearms trigger the most severe legal consequences when you illegally carry one into an airport. Others also are illegal, including BB guns and air pistols, which are not lethal. Although not lethal, they still are banned, and generally come with misdemeanor charges. Similarly, passengers may not carry knives, razors, box cutters or similar cutting utensils. Attempting to carry those in an airport could result in felony charges.
If you are facing arrest at JFK airport call the criminal defense attorneys at Brill Legal Group. We will help you avoid harsh penalties, and keep your driving privileges. Contact us today to discuss your case. We offer a free initial consolation.