Crimes on Board an Aircraft: Acting Out on Flights Can Lead to Serious Consequences

Posted on in Criminal Defense

Illinois criminal defense attorney, Illinois defense lawyer, Illinois federal charges lawyer,Many major news outlets covered the recent sentencing of a Korean Air executive. The executive became infamous for becoming irate on an international flight after she was served macadamia nuts in a bag rather than on a plate. She then demanded that the flight return to its departure gate so that a crew member could be kicked off. For her antics (which delayed the flight a total of 11 minutes) a South Korean judge sentenced the executive to one year in prison.

 Examples of Bad Airplane Behavior

 Before you think “A jail sentence for bad behavior on an airplane cannot happen in the United States,” consider the following individuals who received serious federal consequences for their actions in the air:

  • In 2012, a man groped a pregnant passenger on a flight from New York City to Los Angeles. The incident caused the flight to be diverted to Denver. In addition to spending six months in prison, the man was ordered to pay the airline $4,000 in restitution to compensate for the cost of the flight diversion.
  • In 2010, a male passenger shoved and hit a passenger and struck a crew member on a flight from Minneapolis to Washington, D.C. The man was fined $4,000.
  • A man sprinkled water throughout the airline cabin, made nonsensical statements about Satan, caused damage to the plane’s lavatory, and threatened to blow up the plane. The plane had to be diverted from its original destination to New Mexico, and the passenger was fined $27,500.

 What Happens if I Commit a Crime on Board an Airplane?

Crimes committed against passengers and crew members of a commercial aircraft while the aircraft is “in flight” are prosecuted in their own section of the United States Code. An aircraft is considered to be “in flight” the moment its external doors are shut – even if the aircraft remains on the ground for hours before taking off – and it ceases to be “in flight” the moment the plane stops and the exterior doors are opened again. A criminal act committed on an airplane “in flight” is prosecuted in the federal district over which the plane was flying (or in which the plane was located, if the plane is on the ground) at the time the criminal act occurred. So, for instance, if a passenger becomes disruptive and assaults another passenger while the plane is waiting on the tarmac at Chicago O’Hare International Airport with its exterior doors closed, the crime would be prosecuted in the Northern District of Illinois.

Crimes on board an aircraft can be punished with significant prison time and hefty fines. Even though these crimes have their own criminal statutes, they are defended in much the same manner as other federal crimes. If you have been charged with a federal criminal offense, criminal defense attorney Hal M. Garfinkel will vigorously defend you against these charges – regardless of whether the incident happened in the air or on the ground. Contact an experienced Chicago criminal defense attorney at the Law Offices of Hal M. Garfinkel LLC, Chicago Criminal Defense Attorney today at 312-629-0669.
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