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ChrisSig
10-03-2007, 6:26 AM
Hi all. I made the mistake of accidentally bringing a box of ammunition and several mags through airport security about a month and a half ago. It was my range bag, and I forgot to check it thoroughly before going to the airport. Very stupid, I know.

Needless to say, the screeners caught it and the police gave me a ticket. It's a misdemeanor charge for PC 171.5b.

I talked to a law firm represented here on the board shortly after the incident, but I felt the retainer fee requested to be too high.

My question is: how should I plead? The law states:
"It is unlawful for any person to knowingly possess, within any sterile area of an airport or a passenger vessel terminal, any of the items listed in subdivision (c)."

What is the meaning of 'knowingly possess'? I had forgotten that I had the items in my bag, and I told the officers at the airport exactly that, and I think they believed me. Is this any sort of defense?

I don't want this on my record, but I also don't want to be found guilty after a trial, and have greater penalties assessed against me.

I wrote a letter to the City Attorney's Office after the incident requesting the charge to be dropped based on my lack of prior record, educational background, current employment, and accidental nature of the event, but I received no reply.

Edit: if this needs to be in the Current Legal Cases forum let me know.

tenpercentfirearms
10-03-2007, 6:50 AM
I think the best answer is to get a lawyer. Betting your criminal record on Internet advice just seems unwise. This might be one of life's financially burdonsome mistakes. Or with a misdemeanor on your record, it could be disasterous. Good luck and I say buck up and pay for the lawyer.

rod
10-03-2007, 6:53 AM
How much is the ticket? I'd feel lucky if all I got was a ticket for bringing ammo to an airport. Is the cost of paying a fine more than fighting in court? It sounds like an easy fight to win but you never know. Think about lawyer costs, time off from work, and commuting costs. Add those to the fine if you loose. I don't know what to tell you but think this one through. It might be cheaper to swallow a little pride and pay the fine, and learn a lesson from it.

rod
10-03-2007, 7:06 AM
I think the best answer is to get a lawyer. Betting your criminal record on Internet advice just seems unwise. This might be one of life's financially burdonsome mistakes. Or with a misdemeanor on your record, it could be disasterous. Good luck and I say buck up and pay for the lawyer.

Out of curiousity, how does a misdemeanor on a person's record become disasterous? Does it affect one's approval when DROSing a firearm? I assumed that receiving a ticket for bringing ammo to an airport would have the same consequences as getting a ticket for parking in a red zone.

ChrisSig
10-03-2007, 7:20 AM
I do not know how much the ticket will be, but from the code:

(e) A violation of this section is punishable by imprisonment in a
county jail for a period not exceeding six months, or by a fine not
exceeding one thousand dollars ($1,000), or by both that fine and
imprisonment.

$1,000 is a lot less than a $5,000 retainer fee, and I very much doubt I would be given jail time.

tgriffin
10-03-2007, 8:00 AM
whatever happens, good luck and keep us posted. I can say though that it would be assumed since the bag was in your immediate possession and that you presented it for inspection at security, that it would reasonably be pressumed that you were aware of its contents. Not saying that you were, but rather that will be a point of contention during a court case.

ChrisSig
10-03-2007, 8:06 AM
Thanks for the support. You are right, I was responsible for putting the items in the bag in the first place, so there's no one else to lay the blame on.

I'll keep you guys posted.

U2BassAce
10-03-2007, 8:46 AM
I know somebody who went through JWA's security with 1 loaded mag. He was let go with a warning from the deputy and TSA. He received a letter from TSA regarding the incident. Basically saying don't let it happen again.

I would not want a Misdemeanor on my record. Try another attorney that is not so expensive. Can you get help from a public defender? You can probably plea the misdemeanor away with an explanation from someone who knows the legal mumbo jumbo.

joel1316
10-03-2007, 9:46 AM
I would not have even brought a bag that's been to range with me to the airport. Some airports may use one of those "swab" machines that check for powder/explosives residue.... Just my 2 cents... Good luck!

schizrade2
10-03-2007, 10:04 AM
In the end, most employers look on a non-violent misdemeanor as a "oops, my bad". Unless you have dozens, I would not worry too much.

glockman19
10-03-2007, 10:09 AM
What is the meaning of 'knowingly possess'? I had forgotten that I had the items in my bag, and I told the officers at the airport exactly that, and I think they believed me. Is this any sort of defense?

Ignorance is no excuse for negligence.

Bad Defense. I wouldn't use it.

Lawyer up. What you spend today will benefit you tomorrow. Good legal defense costs.

moulton
10-03-2007, 11:06 AM
wait a minute... this is a misdimeanor correct? why are you not getting a public defender?

alpha_romeo_XV
10-03-2007, 11:18 AM
Sorry to hear about the mishap. Don't post reply but, is this being charged in Superior court or Federal? What else did you have on you or in the bag? There can be 2 phases to your case. First is the establishment of guilt. This is not a traffic ticket, or infraction of the civil code. You have the right to an attorney if you can’t afford one. Selling your guns to pay for one is not the Court’s problem. Public Defenders are iffy, you may get an OK one. You must have representation or you would immediately have a basis for appeal. If you plead guilty, you’ve done phase 1 and handed your a** to the court on a silver platter. Hopefully not, but You can immediately be handcuffed and taken to jail, no different that if a jury convicted you. Your “rights” have just changed significantly at that moment. You will be booked, photo’d and finger printed at minimum. DNA sample is ordered only for felonies not misdemeanors. Phase 2 is sentencing, you will be certainly put on probation and not just a fine. You will be interviewed by probation and asked questions you’d wonder what does this have to do with this case/charge. They could request a psych eval on you, to see if you were really just careless or have deeper issues with society. The DA may ask for probation conditions you never thought could happen, depending on other details, your history, any priors. It could end in a no gun possession order while on probation. May include community service, random drug screening, anger management class, but above all you could now be stopped at any time WITHOUT probable cause and searched. If you want to risk all that on luck - DA and Judge feeling happy your day, its your choice. Not to scare you, it’s just that I’ve seen the “justice department” operate. Just be glad you weren’t driving into Mexico with that bag.

JawBone
10-03-2007, 11:31 AM
When you show up for arraignment, plead not guilty and request a public defender.

Then, at your next court date plea it out - your best bet will be to ask if you are eligible for a misdemeanor diversion program if LA has one. Example - your case is dismissed if you agree to do X hours of community service. There is no conviction on your record and it won't affect you as long as you stay out of trouble. If you are arrested again, then the court will hold it against you.

"Knowingly" will likely be defined as "knew or reasonably should have known..." and since it was your bag and you were going to the airport...

But, the DA probably doesn't want to waste resources on a case where you didn't say you knew at the time you were arrested.

My two cents - good luck.

eta34
10-03-2007, 12:05 PM
Sorry to hear about the mishap. Don't post reply but, is this being charged in Superior court or Federal? What else did you have on you or in the bag? There can be 2 phases to your case. First is the establishment of guilt. This is not a traffic ticket, or infraction of the civil code. You have the right to an attorney if you can’t afford one. Selling your guns to pay for one is not the Court’s problem. Public Defenders are iffy, you may get an OK one. You must have representation or you would immediately have a basis for appeal. If you plead guilty, you’ve done phase 1 and handed your a** to the court on a silver platter. Hopefully not, but You can immediately be handcuffed and taken to jail, no different that if a jury convicted you. Your “rights” have just changed significantly at that moment. You will be booked, photo’d and finger printed at minimum. DNA sample is ordered only for felonies not misdemeanors. Phase 2 is sentencing, you will be certainly put on probation and not just a fine. You will be interviewed by probation and asked questions you’d wonder what does this have to do with this case/charge. They could request a psych eval on you, to see if you were really just careless or have deeper issues with society. The DA may ask for probation conditions you never thought could happen, depending on other details, your history, any priors. It could end in a no gun possession order while on probation. May include community service, random drug screening, anger management class, but above all you could now be stopped at any time WITHOUT probable cause and searched. If you want to risk all that on luck - DA and Judge feeling happy your day, its your choice. Not to scare you, it’s just that I’ve seen the “justice department” operate. Just be glad you weren’t driving into Mexico with that bag.


No, he cannot be stopped without probable cause. The officer either has to have PC to stop him, or KNOW he is on searchable probation.

bwiese
10-03-2007, 12:06 PM
Figure out how much grief this may cause you in current/future employment.

The relevant lawyers in question charge a certain fee because of their background and skill and their 'name'. The fact that you have known expert counsel can in fact way mitigate things. Smart people don't work for cheap, and I know these guys are smart.

Perhaps a local yokel attorney may charge a bit less. You get what you pay for, and it's your arse.

Likely outcome is 'court probation' and fine (i.e, keep nose clean for 1yr). Could be worse with antigun judge, and you could have weekend road warrior duty with DUIs and druggies - perhaps even a temporary gun prohibition, dunno.

Also I am not sure if a violation of this is an escalator for future DWCL violations (i.e., if you get popped for unpapered CCW in future, will a conviction for this worsen it?)

After any court probation is up, and providing everything else is clean, you can file for expungement. Expungement may or may not stop this from being an escalator for future DWCL charges.

Since I often fly w/guns+ammo (declared) this is old hat for me. I also pre-search all my baggage for prohibited items for rare times I fly without guns. I always check all my bags except for briefcase so it avoids carry-on issues.
I fully expect scrutiny since I'm probably on TSA database as "dude flies with guns a lot" - and since my luggage and clothing likely spike the nitrate detectors.

[Oh - in a related vein, whenever I sell a vehicle to private party, I note in paperwork that the vehicle was used to legally transport firearms/ammo, and a best-effort action was made to clean vehicle but that a spare round or two of ammo could still be present. I have purchaser initial that has duty to scrub vehicle for ammo if, say, going to a controlled area, or to Mexico.]

randy
10-03-2007, 12:22 PM
Sounds like you could be having a fire sale of your firearms. INAL but a misdemeanor firearms violation...... might mean no more guns for some time.

Get a scumba get a lawyer.

ryang
10-03-2007, 12:28 PM
why are you not getting a public defender?Here's a surprisingly little known fact: public defenders are only free if you truly can not afford one. If you can afford it, you are required to pay for a public defender. If you can't afford the whole bill, you are required to pay whatever amount you can afford.

dfletcher
10-03-2007, 1:12 PM
Here's a surprisingly little known fact: public defenders are only free if you truly can not afford one. If you can afford it, you are required to pay for a public defender. If you can't afford the whole bill, you are required to pay whatever amount you can afford.

You beat me to it. Absolutely correct.

I think a legal consultation is at least advised. Spring for 1 hour or use the public defender, although I'm wondering how sympathetic a PD is going to be in this case. But one way or anther use an Attorney.

Do you plan on being promoted at work and if so will a criminal record determine advancement? Probably don't plan on being fired but if so, a criminal record regarding firearms isn't an asset.

An Attorney will start from point one which is - prove he knew about the ammo. Is that your bag? If it is your bag, did you use it last? Did you pack it? Who says it's your ammo? Were you at the airport alone, did anyone at any point have possession of the bag before you? Or, you may be stuck regardless of how it got there, whose bag it is and whose ammo it is.

Something else to consider - you know how you feel after you buy a car & think you got a good deal, only to find out you got screwed? How will you feel if you find out after being found guilty that a conviction causes other problems AND learning you could have won with proper representation?

U2BassAce
10-03-2007, 1:24 PM
Again if you can't afford the $5,000 retainer for the firearms attorney, look for another. I don't think this case HAS to be handled by an attorney specializing in guns.

But 100% consult one either way.

FreedomIsNotFree
10-03-2007, 1:30 PM
Did you "knowingly" bring the items to the secure area? If not, there may not be "intent". What you need to is consult an attorney and find out if the crime you were charged with is a crime of "specific intent".

To be guilty of a specific intent crime, a defendant must not only intend the act charged but also intend to violate law.

Worst case scenario.....you will get informal court probation for a year or two with a relatively small fine. You dont have a PO to report to....no drug tests...etc..etc..etc...

On the grand scale of things this is pretty minor.

Basic intent or specific intent.....that is the only question you really need to have answered. If its basic, then plead out, fall on your sword in front of the Judge and the penalty will be relatively minor....Specific intent, which I doubt, and you will win if the prosecution cant prove you intended to violate the law.

Alan Block
10-03-2007, 4:16 PM
I acccidentaly brought 2 shotgun shells with me in a vest. They showed up in the x-ray window as my bag went thru. I was sweating .45 caliber bullets as they pulled me asside to wait for the supervisor. He said it happens all the time and they just confiscated the shells and sent me on my way. BTW this was Richmond Va

dfletcher
10-03-2007, 5:29 PM
Ignorance is no excuse for negligence.

Bad Defense. I wouldn't use it.

Lawyer up. What you spend today will benefit you tomorrow. Good legal defense costs.


mens rea
Latin: a mind to be accused; a guilty mind. In many systems of law, criminal guilt requires not only that an act was performed (actus reus) but also that it was performed with an appropriate mind-set. Having the intention to perform a crime is sufficient, but not necessary to mens rea. Foreseeing a side-effect such as a death could count, even if the death is not intended, and reckless negligence could also constitute mens rea.

The above may or may not apply in your case - "I didn't know, I didn't intend to break the law." On the other hand, using your range bag as a carry on and not checking for ammo or loaded mags could be considered "reckless negligence". I think a good prosecutor would have quite a time with that one.

Look at the bright side - at least they weren't hi cap mags.

Salty
10-03-2007, 6:10 PM
If you can't afford a lawyer, get a loan, if you're unable to get a loan from the bank call up your friends and family.

You would'nt want your life perminatly affected because of an honest mistake.

If an employer see's "wreckless driving" on you're background check they might just shrug it off, but if they see something a long the lines of "firearm ammo at an airport" in California I'd say you're chances are pretty slim of getting that job. Hell they might even freak out and call the cops, assuming that you should be on death row for terrorism charges. Especially considering the profile a typical HR employee.

Oh and by the way, why is it that when someone walks threw with a pocket knife, nail clippers, or scissors they just throw it away and let them threw the gate, but when it's ammo (and no gun) they call the cops?

ChrisSig
10-03-2007, 6:24 PM
mens rea
On the other hand, using your range bag as a carry on and not checking for ammo or loaded mags could be considered "reckless negligence". I think a good prosecutor would have quite a time with that one.

I should clarify, that this was my backpack which I use everyday, and happened to use for a range trip a couple of weekends prior to the incident. It wasn't a bag dedicated to range use.

Yes, at least I didn't get caught with 30 round magazines....that would have been a real pain in the ***. Good thing I don't have any high-caps.

U2BassAce
10-03-2007, 6:56 PM
I should clarify, that this was my backpack which I use everyday, and happened to use for a range trip a couple of weekends prior to the incident. It wasn't a bag dedicated to range use.

Yes, at least I didn't get caught with 30 round magazines....that would have been a real pain in the ***. Good thing I don't have any high-caps.

Same thing that happened with my buddy and the loaded mag. He has a CCW and was on a road trip in his car. When he got to a hotel at night he threw the extra mag in the small/thin outermost pocket of his backpack. Then forgot about it. Cleared bag before trip but that little pocket was overlooked.

Yes he shiat bricks BIG TIME!! Especially after the shut down the whole security lane like code RED!! LOLOL

tenpercentfirearms
10-03-2007, 10:39 PM
A misdemeanor like this could torpedo a career in law enforcement or corrections. Plus, how long until these kinds of convictions are added to the likes of a misdemeanor domestic violence conviction? I would rather not take a misdemeanor.

Liberty1
10-03-2007, 11:20 PM
If one of the elements of the crime is Knowingly violating the law then make them prove you knowingly brought ammo into a restricted area. Do get an attorney but don't just roll over. Friends don't let friends plead guilty. Push for a jury trial and testify on your own behalf. I doubt they even take it to a jury if you put up a fight. At least get the preliminary hearing. The judge might throw it out for lack of evidence. Depends on how the officers testify. If they say that they don't believe you knowingly did it, that may end the case right there.

Keep in mind it's easy for us to give advise; it's your neck.