Federal Crimes at 35,000 Feet

It never fails. I'm on a plane, hopeful about getting caught up on some work, but the WiFi reminds me of old school AOL dial up. Not exactly in line with my productive aspirations.

Then I find myself distracted by the woman next to me who seems perplexed that the flight attendant doesn't have olives for her Bloody Mary. It's not like she caused a ruckus, but plenty of people do while they are on airplanes. Usually, it starts with someone having one drink too many (even without the olives), and sometimes people don't realize that it isn't 1979 and you can't smoke on an airplane.

On occasion, this rowdiness at 35,000 feet turns into a federal crime. Whether it's an Air Marshal or an FBI agent waiting to greet you at the gate with handcuffs, federal law enforcement has exclusive jurisdiction over crimes that occur on airplanes. Why? Because aviation involves interstate commerce and is regulated exclusively by the federal government.

What Kinds of Crimes Can You Be Charged with on an Airplane?

Think back to your worst nightmare-flight. No, not just the baby that wouldn't stop crying. Think about the loud obnoxious drunk passenger who kept causing a commotion, or the extra amorous couple that couldn't wait until they landed.

The most common federal criminal charges that occur on an airplane involve:

  • Failure to obey a crew member
  • Interfering with normal flight operations
  • Possession of a weapon
  • Sex offenses, and in particular, public sexual indecency

And while I'm certainly not trying to give anyone any bright ideas, it really takes a lot to get criminally charged for doing something stupid on an airplane. That said, as a Phoenix criminal defense attorney who has represented dozens of clients charged in federal court, if you find yourself charged as a result of bad decisions you made while on an airplane, I can help. Contact us at (602) 663-9100 to see what we can do to keep what was a bad day from turning into a life altering permanent felony conviction. We're here to help!

And no, they don't usually have olives for your Bloody Mary on most airplanes.

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