Charged With Possession of Handgun in an Airport, A Look at the Law and What to Expect

Indianapolis Criminal Defense Attorney Blog:  Possession of a Handgun in an Airport

When reading the title to this blog, one was probably thinking to himself, “a gun in an airport, who’d be crazy enough to do that?”  Well, you would be surprised.  As more and more people begin carrying firearms for personal protection, more and more often, usually due to a bout of forgetfulness, people are being arrested for possession of a firearm in the secured part of the airport.

So how does the typical situation play out where someone ends up with a gun in an airport?  In writing this blog the Indianapolis Criminal Defense Attorneys will use the imaginary business traveler Joe.  Joe owns a home, has a family and happens to have a job where he has to travel via the airport 3 or 4 days out of the week.  The other 2 days of the week, Joe has to travel many times in his car.  Unfortunately, due to the type of work Joe does, some of his industrial customers are located in higher crime areas.

Therefore, when traveling to customer offices in his car Joe keeps a firearm for personal protection.  On the weekends Joe keeps the gun in his home to help provide security for his home and family.  On this particular day, Joe has to leave early in the morning on Monday, so on Sunday night, he throws his gun in his computer bag so he won’t forget to take it on Monday morning.  Monday morning comes around and Joe is in a hurry to make it to the airport to his flight on time.  Joe grabs his computer bag, as well as his overnight bag and runs out the door.  Normally, Joe puts his handgun in the glove box.

On this particular morning, Joe quickly parks his car at the airport, grabs his computer bag and his overnight bag and rushes towards security as he has only 45 minutes until his flight is supposed to depart.  Joe is pleasantly surprised when he sees that security at the Indianapolis International Airport is not busy and he is going to be able to breeze right through.

As Joe has done literally hundreds of times before, he slips off his shoes and throws his two bags on the x-ray machine and proceeds through the metal detector.  Joe rushes to the end of the x-ray conveyor belt when he realizes his bags are not coming out as quickly as they normally would.  At that point his face loses all expression as he realizes he left his gun in his computer bag.

Immediately Joe is mortified as the TSA employees ask him to step aside and follow them back to an office.  Joe is then informed that he will be charged with carrying a handgun into an airport.  The exact statute reads as follows:

A person who knowingly or intentionally enters an area of an airport to which access is controlled by the inspection of persons and property while the person:
(1) possesses:

  • (A) a firearm;
  • (B) an explosive; or
  • (C) any other deadly weapon; or

(2) has access to property that contains:

  • (A) a firearm;
  • (B) an explosive; or
  • (C) any other deadly weapon;

…commits a Class A misdemeanor.

Now you might be thinking to yourself, hey, Joe didn’t do anything intentionally wrong.  That is a very good point and may mean that Joe has a valid defense to fight the charge.  However, the statute only requires that Joe “knowingly” possessed the gun in the airport.  Many times prosecutors can make the argument that a gun owner should always know where their gun is.  So, when Joe knowingly put the gun in his computer case and then knowingly carried the computer case into the airport, he was guilty of the crime.

So, what is poor Joe to do?  Joe can go to trial and hope that the judge or jury agrees that this was all a terrible misunderstanding and ask them to return a verdict of not guilty.  However, maybe Joe doesn’t want the risk or expense of a trial.  Luckily, most of these types of cases happen in Marion County, because the major airport is located in Indianapolis.  If Joe has an otherwise good criminal history and appears to really have done this on accident, then it is likely that the prosecutor will consider offering Joe a diversion.   A diversion will allow Joe to potentially get the criminal charge dismissed.  In most instances, this will require a meeting between the prosecutor, Joe, and Joe’s attorney.  (for more details on the diversion program click this link.

Assuming Joe gets his case dismissed, then he will be free to carry his firearm again and still be without any criminal history.  Luckily, this is a crime the prosecutor will usually be reasonable about, if it appears to be due to carelessness.  If you or a loved one is charged with carrying a handgun in an airport, give the experienced Indianapolis Criminal Defense Attorneys at Banks & Brower a call to discuss your case at (317) 870-0019.