What happens after the great catch?

Wednesday, May 18, 2022
Sam's case photo

What happens after the great catch? Part two: investigation, violations lead to financial consequences

Editor’s note: This limited series explores the compliance arm of Security Operations: what they do, how they relate to the field and other program offices, and why accurate execution of each portion of the process is crucial for the next step’s success.

In part one of this series, we discovered what happened after a TSA officer discovered a firearm in a passenger’s carry-on bag. Team members took clear photos of the prohibited items, captured accurate information, and descriptively documented the incident.

Now pull up a chair next to George Bush Intercontinental Airport’s Transportation Security Inspector (TSI) Rosa Hernandez, and let’s see what happened in Sam’s case – not his real name.

Research and proposed penalties

Firearm chart photo
(Chart by TSA Graphics)

First, Hernandez completed a search in TSA’s national reporting system to check if Sam had a previous violation anywhere in the country. Hernandez discovered this was Sam’s first firearm infraction.

In reviewing evidence, Hernandez looked for discrepancies and made sure Sam presented an acceptable ID. He had a valid Texas driver’s license.

After thoroughly reviewing all the information, Hernandez recommended a penalty, following the guidance of TSA’s Sanction Guidance Policy, which ensures consistent application of the enforcement throughout the country.

Civil penalties in Sam’s case

Because the firearm in Sam’s carry-on was loaded, it led to an increase in the proposed penalty. It also impacted the settlement of the case.

Hernandez’s recommendation for his proposed civil penalty was $4,950.

Once Hernandez’s supervisor, Supervisory TSI Gary Sprinkle approved the investigation, Sam was sent a Notice of Violation (NOV), which started the civil penalty action. This expedited process, provided to TSA in Title 49 CFR 1503, is unique to the investigations completed for checkpoint and checked baggage incidents of prohibited items only. This notification also gave Sam options on how to settle the legal matter.

In Sam’s case, the approved final settlement was $3,712.50.

Other options

A passenger may choose to have the disposition determined by an administrative law judge. If this occurs, the inspector may be called by the court as a witness in determining the outcome of TSA’s legal process.

If the subject of TSA’s investigation is ordered to pay a fine and chooses not to pay, then the fine will be taken out of their tax return(s). If they receive no money from a tax return, the fine will be assessed on their assets.

TSA does not keep proceeds from fines. The money is sent to the Treasury and added to the general fund.

Don’t be that passenger

Last year, 5,972 firearms were discovered at airport checkpoints.

The most common phrases TSOs hear when a firearm is discovered in a passenger’s carry-on bag is, “I forgot it was there” and/or “I didn’t know it was in there!”

Travel plans and schedules are crazy, but if Sam would have surveyed his carry-on bag one last time before leaving home, he would have saved a lot of time and money, not to mention his good standing with TSA PreCheck®.

A quick check of “What Can I Bring?” on the TSA.gov website would have reminded Sam of the appropriate way to travel with a firearm and ammunition. This handy resource is a quick and easy packing reference for travelers.

Officers and inspectors will be on duty throughout the busy 2022 summer travel season, helping you safely arrive at your destination.

Don’t be that passenger. Know what’s in your carry-on bag. If not, there may be financial consequences.  

For a complete list of fines, check out the Enforcement Sanction Guidance Policy.

By Karen Robicheaux, TSA Strategic Communications and Public Affairs