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Arrested at Tampa International Airport?

Since the events of September 11, 2001, we have all noticed drastic changes at the airport. One noticeable change is the increase in the number of people arrested at the airport for wide range of misdemeanor and felony offenses under state and federal law.

Our criminal defense attorneys represent clients charged with criminal offenses that occur at the airport. The vast majority of those arrested or cited at the Tampa International Airport come into contact with law enforcement officers with the Tampa International Airport Police Department (TIAPD), Transportation Security Administration (TSA) or the Department of Homeland Security.


Zero Tolerance Policies at the Airport

In many of these cases, common sense was replaced with "zero tolerance" policies. The numbers of people arrested for inadvertently carrying concealed weapon or firearm into a secure part of the airport has increased. Many recent cases involved someone who forgot about a firearm, pocket knife or other types of contraband when they pack.

To their surprise, the contraband is discovered as they go through security. The person is immediately detained and questioned. Most are arrested and formally booked at the jail. A few individuals with misdemeanor charges receive a "notice to appear" at a future court date and are released at the scene.

A criminal charge of carrying a concealed firearm or carrying a concealed weapon requires that the person knew that he possessed the contraband. If the person did not know, then the person is not guilty of any criminal offense. However, even in those cases where it is clear the person is not guilty, the officers might still make the arrest and let the courts sort it out later.

Read more in a recent news article about how police want more warning signs at the airport to prevent arrests at the airport for carrying a concealed firearm. According to the article, more than 23 loaded firearms were seized at Tampa International Airport from January 1st to September 1, 2013. The number of knives and other types of weapons seized were even higher. Another article shows that the number of guns discovered at the Tampa International Airport is on the rise.

2015 2014 2013 2012 2011
Tampa International Airport 49 49 36 33 27
Total at all U.S. airports 2,653 2,212 1,813 1,556 1,320

Carrying a Concealed Weapon or Firearm

Under Florida law, it is illegal to carry a concealed weapon or firearm under certain circumstances without a license to carry a concealed weapon issued under Florida Statute 790.06.

Even if you have a concealed weapons permit, under Florida Statute 790.06 you are still not allowed to carry a concealed weapon in any place that is prohibited under Federal law including:

The inside of the passenger terminal and sterile area of any airport, provide that no person shall be prohibited from carrying any legal firearm into the terminal, which firearm is encased for shipment for purposes of checking such firearm as baggage to be lawfully transported on any aircraft.


Going Through Security with a Weapon

For individuals that pack for the airport in a rush, they may not realized that a weapon is hidden in their carry on bag. The mistake is discovered by law enforcement in the security screening. Although the crime of possession of a concealed weapon or firearm requires that you "knew" you were in possession of the contraband, the law enforcement officers at the Tampa International Airport Police Department often make an arrest in those cases even if they have overwhelming evidence that the mistake was inadvertent or without actual knowledge.

If you accidentally brought the knife, firearm, or other contraband to the airport, and did not have actual knowledge that the item was your carry on bag, the best result is getting all criminal charges dropped so that you might be eligible to expunge the criminal record.


The Formal Arrest vs. the Notice to Appear

For serious offenses the police officers at the Tampa International Airport are authorized to make an arrest. When a formal arrest is made, you will be booked into the jail at Orient Road before being allowed to post bond. For many misdemeanor charges, the law enforcement officers might release the person after issuing a Notice to Appear (NTA) for a future arraignment court date at the courthouse in Tampa, Hillsborough County, FL.

Hiring an attorney as soon as possible after the arrest is important for preserving your rights. Surveillance cameras often capture the events that occurred in the terminal or parking lot. However, those videos may be destroyed unless you properly demand that the tape is preserved within 7 days of the arrest.


Types of Arrests Made at Tampa International Airport

Common cases include criminal accusations for the following offenses:

  • Possession of marijuana;
  • Possession of a concealed weapon (including knifes and firearms) either with or without a concealed weapons permit;
  • Possession of other controlled substance including prescription medication not in a prescription bottle;
  • Disorderly conduct or intoxication;
  • Trespass;
  • Resisting arrest or opposing a police officer with or without violence; and 
  • Driving under the influence of alcohol (DUI) in the airport parking lot.

If you were arrested for a felony or misdemeanor offense at Tampa International Airport then contact a criminal defense attorney in Hillsborough County, FL, to discuss defenses that may apply to your case. We are experienced in representing individuals who live out of town or out of the State of Florida. Your attorney can talk with you about waiving many of your preliminary court dates so that you do not need to make needless trips to Tampa, FL to resolve your case.


Diversion Programs including PTI and MIP in Hillsborough County, FL

Certain diversion programs including the pre-trial intervention program (PTI) and the misdemeanor intervention program (MIP) are often available to individuals charged with misdemeanor and felony offenses in Hillsborough County who have no prior criminal record.

Entering those programs may not be the best choice for certain professionals such as college or graduate students, lawyers, nurses, doctors and other health-care professionals, pilots, public and private school teachers, professors and educators, law enforcement officers or members of the military.

Of course, most innocent people would be better off fighting the charges in court instead of agreeing that they did something wrong and entering a diversion program.


Hiring an Attorney After an Arrest at Tampa International Airport

Contact a Tampa criminal defense attorney at the Sammis Law Firm if you were arrested at the airport in Tampa, FL, for any misdemeanor or felony offense in Hillsborough County, FL. Our attorneys are available to discuss the case during a free, confidential consultation.

Call 813-250-0500 today to speak with an experienced criminal defense attorney.


This article was last updated by on Friday, December 2, 2016.