Arrested at the Los Angeles Airport (LAX )?

Los Angeles Criminal Defense Attorney

Have you been arrested or detained at the Los Angeles International Airport (LAX)? Arrests and detentions are a common occurrence at LAX, since it is the third busiest airport in the United States. The most common cases involve guns, weapons, drugs, and drug paraphernalia. In some cases, a person arrested at the airport could be detained, handcuffed, and taken to the Los Angeles County jail for booking and processing.

They could be detained for 24 to 72 hours before they are released on their own recognizance (i.e. on their promise to appear) or by posting bail to guarantee a future court appearance. Airport arrests often lead to misdemeanor or felony charges. The consequences of these charges can be significant and could result in a conviction, jail time, the suspension of your state professional license, fines and probation.

If you were arrested at LAX, speak to a criminal defense attorney at Stephen G. Rodriguez & Partners to learn what legal options are available to you.

Common Scenarios at the Los Angeles Airport

Some of the most common arrests that occur at the Los Angeles Airport include:

  • Possession of Marijuana
  • Possession of Controlled Substances / Illegal Drugs
  • Possession of Drug Paraphernalia
  • Possession of Weapons
  • Possession of Firearms or Components
  • Bench and Arrest Warrants
  • Possession of Large Sums of Cash.

Possession of Marijuana

Possession of any type of drug at the airport will prompt an arrest. Possession of marijuana of less than one ounce of marijuana is an infraction, punishable by a $100 fine. Possession of more than an ounce of marijuana is a misdemeanor that comes with a maximum sentence of six months in county jail and a fine.

People charged with this crime may be eligible for drug treatment, which may result in the dismissal of the case. In marijuana cases involving larger quantities, a felony may be charged. The felony charge of "possession for sale of marijuana" (Health and Safety Code Section 11359) is based on circumstantial evidence such as:

  • The quantity of marijuana
  • The number of packages and method of packaging
  • Possession of measuring scales
  • Lack of drug paraphernalia
  • Admissions made by the carrier of drugs.

The penalty for this offense is 16 months to three years in state prison or county jail.

NOTE: Traveling through airports with medical marijuana is a problem. Although medical marijuana is legal in California, marijuana possession is illegal under federal law. So if you get stopped at the airport with medical marijuana, you can still be arrested for drug possession.

Possession of Drug Paraphernalia

California Health & Safety Code section 11364 makes it a misdemeanor crime to unlawfully possess drug paraphernalia. Drug paraphernalia is the equipment used in smoking, injecting, consuming, manufacturing, testing, measuring, or concealing illegal drugs. Paraphernalia includes pipes, spoons, needles, syringes, scales, baggies, capsules, balloons, cutting instruments, roach clips, and various storage containers. There are a number of legal defenses to possession of drug paraphernalia that a knowledgeable criminal defense lawyer can use in order to set the charges aside.

Possession of Weapons

Possession of a firearm or other weapon at the airport is a serious crime and can be charged as a misdemeanor or felony. People charged with firearms or weapons violations, who have no criminal record, may in some rare cases, be eligible for a dismissal of the criminal charges through a program known as Diversion. A Diversion program is available to certain defendants in lieu of criminal prosecution.

The Diversion program consists of meeting certain conditions such as attending classes or treatment over a specific period of time. There may be fines and community service required as well. Upon successful completion of the program, the weapon charges are dropped and the defendant will not have a conviction on their record. Speak to one of our Los Angeles criminal defense attorneys to learn more about the pros and cons of Diversion.

Possession of Controlled Substances

It is illegal to possess a controlled substance in California. Controlled substances are illegal drugs that include, but are not limited to: cocaine, heroin, methamphetamine, opiates, stimulants, depressants, steroids, LSD or other hallucinogens, prescription drugs (without a valid prescription). Possession of a controlled substance is usually charged as a misdemeanor, punishable by up to one year in county jail. You may be eligible for drug diversion, which if completed, would result in a dismissal of the charges and no conviction.

In cases where the quantity of drugs found is not in small amounts, a felony for Possession of a Controlled Substance for Sale (Health & Safety Code sections 11351 or 11378) can be charged. The prosecutor must prove the intent to sell by a number of circumstantial factors such as the quantity of the drug possessed.

If you have been accused of transporting drugs, the prosecutor may also issue a charge for the Transportation of a Controlled Substance (Health & Safety Code section 11352). This offense is a felony punishable by up to five years in state prison. All the prosecutor has to prove is movement of the drugs.

If the quantity is more than the average consumption for personal use, this could support a charge of possession for sale. Other factors used by the prosecutor include possession of items like scales, baggies, or cell phone texts. Large amounts of cash found on the person could also support a sale charge. The penalties are generally up to five years in prison. Drug programs are not available for this charge.

Bench or Arrest Warrants

Anyone traveling at an airport runs the risk of being detained and arrested for a bench warrant or arrest warrant. Airport security in Los Angeles, in the wake of various security problems, has been on alert and very aggressive in their measures. The goal of the Transportation Security Agency (TSA) is to maintain security for those flying in the United States; to that end, they ensure that all passengers do not pose a security risk.

A passenger flying from Texas to Los Angeles with a bench warrant is not likely to be arrested and hauled off to county jail. At most, that passenger could be detained for an unusually long time, causing that person to miss their flight altogether. It would all depend on the seriousness and nature of the crime underlying the bench warrant.

Someone with a felony warrant is more likely to be arrested and sent to jail than someone with a simple misdemeanor bench warrant or traffic ticket bench warrant. Certainly anyone with an open arrest warrant or extraditable warrant (Governor's warrant) is likely to be arrested at the airport and sent to county jail. It is advisable for anyone traveling through airports to handle their warrants before making that trip.

Possession of Firearms

Possession of a firearm, weapon, or components at the Los Angeles Airport can be a misdemeanor punishable by six months to one year in county jail. The punishment for felony possession could be a state prison sentence. The prohibited items include (but are not limited to): firearms; knives with a blade greater than four inches; box cutters; straight razors; hand grenade; imitation grenade or firearms; gun barrel or magazine; Taser or stun gun; tear gas; ammunition; and a BB or pellet gun.

Possession of Excessive Cash

Anyone caught with $10,000 or more of cash at the Los Angeles Airport is in for a big surprise. It may not be technically illegal, but it is certainly not the best idea. You can be detained and interrogated for a few hours and, in some cases, even arrested and charged. Your money could be seized and subject to complete forfeiture. Good luck trying to retrieve your money. It is a legal nightmare. In some cases, it will cost you a lot of money to simply hire a defense lawyer to attempt to retrieve your money.

In some cases, drug charges or money laundering charges can be filed depending on how the money was stored and folded. In the event that criminal charges are not filed, law enforcement may still be able to keep the money. According to recent figures generated by the Air Transport Association, the majority of people targeted and detained at airports are African-Americans, Hispanics, Asians, Arabs, Middle-Easterners, hippie types and any other persons who fit a security risk or courier profile.

Defending People Arrested at the Airport

We represent out-of-state and local residents facing criminal charges originating from the Los Angeles Airport (LAX) or other local airports such as Burbank, Long Beach, and Ontario. We understand that an out-of-state arrest or citation is a complicated matter. We can simplify it for you. Let us put our experience to work for you. Call us to schedule a no-cost, confidential consultation before determining your best course of action.