Drunk on a Plane

Inside view on passenger and cabin crew people on an airline

We have all heard the saying, vacation begins once I get past security.

Whoever they are, they are referring to airport security. I’m guilty of this to be sure. First, I don’t like to fly but I love to travel.

So what does one do when they want to travel but hate to fly? Well, I know for sure that I get past security and find the first bar / restaurant and grab a drink or maybe two. I am on vacation right and who can it hurt?

Well, drinking at the airport or even on the plane is not a crime and many have the same mentality that vacation starts once you pass security. Either way, it’s not a crime to have a few cocktails for whatever reason. It is however a crime to engage in unruly behavior on board a plane which can land you in federal prison for 20 years and get you a $35,000 fine if the incident is bad enough.

We have all seen viral videos of passengers going crazy and harming an airline employee or another passenger. Most of these videos are of people who have gotten intoxicated on the plane or in the airport prior to boarding the plane. Again, being drunk is not a crime, it’s what you do after that can be considered a crime.

In recent years passengers aboard a plane have become unruly with viral videos due to the federal requirement to wear a mask on a plane during covid. In some cases, people don’t want to just follow the rules of the airline and become agitated towards the airline staff. These are crimes that are federal offenses and are punishable with prison time and fines.

Is Intoxication on a Plane Illegal

As previously discussed, a passenger on a plane commits no crime by being drunk on a plane.

It is a crime and violates federal law if you do the following:

  • Intimidating or assaulting a flight crew member or flight attendant of the aircraft
  • Interfering with a flight attendant or crew member’s ability to perform their regular job duties
  • Considerably lessen the ability of the crew member or flight attendant to perform their job duties
  • Attempt or conspired to attempt the above actions against a flight attendant or crew member

Whether you are drunk or not it is a federal crime to interfere with the job of any flight crew member. Federal law applies to conduct aboard an aircraft under a “special aircraft jurisdiction of the United States.” This includes all commercial flights that:

  • Are operated by U.S carriers
  • Aircrafts that have departed from the United States
  • Aircraft that are landing in the U.S as their next stop

The aircraft are considered in flight and therefore subjected to federal law the minute the exterior doors are closed after all boarding. The federal law stays in effect until the following:

  • The exiting of the aircraft by passengers after they have arrived, and the crew has opened the doors for disembarking
  • In the case of an emergency landing, until competent authorities have assumed responsibility for the aircraft, the individuals and the property on board.

This means that even if you are sitting there waiting on the tarmac, and we all hate sitting in the tube and just waiting. It is still considered a federal offense or federal law because the doors have been closed, so it is considered in flight even though it’s on the ground.

What Are the Penalties

Since crimes on an aircraft are considered federal crimes, they are much different than being charged by the local police for drunk and disorderly conduct. That is considered a misdemeanor in Nevada and may get you a fine and some community service.

On the other hand, interfering with crew members on a plane whether or not you are drunk is a federal crime and is punishable by up to 20 years in prison and thousands of dollars in fines.

A life prison sentence is possible if a weapon was used to assault or intimidate a flight crew member.

The federal judge can impose a fine of up to $35,000 above the prison term if you:

  • Assault a crew member either physically or sexually
  • If you threaten to assault or sexually assault a crew member
  • Taking any action that poses an imminent threat to the safety of the plane, other passengers, or crew members of the aircraft

During the pandemic, there were many viral videos where passengers were assaulting crew members and flight attendants due to the mask procedures of the airline or federal mask policies. So in 2021, The Federal Aviation Administration instituted a federal Zero Tolerance Policy against crimes against flight staff and other passengers. You will be prosecuted in the federal court system if you commit any crime on a plane.

What Are the Defenses?

Since crimes on a plane are federal crimes, you’ll definitely need to hire a good defense team.

Since the federal government has a zero-tolerance policy regarding crimes on a plane including intoxication resulting in interfering with a crew member or flight attendant’s job duties it is best to have a defense plan when you appear in federal court.

The Federal court in Nevada is located at:

Lloyd D. George Criminal Courthouse in Las Vegas

Bruce R. Thompson Federal Courthouse in Reno

Some defenses your lawyers might consider are:

  1. Self Defense-If you were defending yourself against another when you:
    • Believed that an aggressor poses an immediate threat of harm to you
    • Use no more force than necessary to remove the threat
  2. The Incident was accidental and there was no intent to commit the crime
  3. You were falsely accused by another passenger
  4. Mistaken identity– the crew or other passengers identified you as the person who committed the offense, but it was another passenger.

These days most incidents on airplanes end up going viral due to everyone recording on a plane once an incident starts to happen. So your defense team might have access to the video that could get the charges against you dismissed.

On the other hand, if you were the culprit then these videos might be the thing that gets you convicted in federal court.

Why Do I Need a Defense Attorney

All crimes on an aircraft are federal crimes and with the zero-tolerance policy, you will be tried in federal court if you are charged with a crime on an airplane. The punishments for committing crimes on an airplane can be severe so if you are charged or arrested after an incident on an airplane in the US you’ll need to hire an experienced legal defense team immediately.

The Defenders in Las Vegas will investigate your case and tell you what you can expect as the outcome. If we find evidence that it wasn’t you that committed the crime, we will get the charges dismissed.

We can also get charges reduced if you have no prior criminal offenses.

A good defense team has built relationships with the prosecutors and the federal prosecutors and judges so they can negotiate a plea deal if necessary to get your sentence or fines reduced based on many factors.

Also, our attorneys at The Defenders will make all appearances with you or even go for you if you are not required to appear in Federal Court.

Your Defense Lawyers

If you have been charged with a crime in Nevada including any criminal offense on a plane, welcome to the law firm that can help.

The Defenders is a local Las Vegas firm that has been in the community for over 40 years.

We defend our clients from a variety of charges including DUI, Drug offenses, Misdemeanors, Financial Crimes, Felonies, Murder, Sex offenses, and many other criminal charges.

Time is critical and if you have been charged with a crime or arrest you need to hire an attorney immediately before you get into more trouble.

Your choice of an experienced defense team can make all the difference now and in the future.

If you were arrested in Nevada then you need to hire a local attorney that knows the ins and outs of Nevada law. The Defenders is that firm with a proven track record of getting cases resolved with favorable results. Call us today.

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