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You crossed the line

And Now You’ve Received a TSA Letter of Violation

Over 925 million people traveled domestically in the United States in 2019.  Most domestic travelers abide by the rules and regulations that are required in airports across the country. For many, the worst they encounter with the U.S. Transportation Security Administration (“TSA”) are matters of inconvenience: forgetting to take off their belt or empty their pockets as they go through the scanning process for instance. You might even forget to remove your laptop from its bag once in a while. In these cases, forgetting to do so usually only results in a slight hold-up that might cause frustration and perhaps some anxiety about making it to your gate on time, but leaves no lasting effect.  Unfortunately, the story for “most” is not the story for “all” and some situations leave you with more than a fleeting annoyance.     THE TSA INVESTIGATES AND FINES INDIVIDUAL TRAVELERS

Similar to State Troopers who patrol the highways and pull over speeding drivers, TSA agents monitor the inside of airports and respond to individuals they believe violate the rules and restrictions specific to such areas. “Cause for investigation” can be triggered by a variety of  scenarios, such as allowing another person to take your bag through security or crossing into a secure or sterile zone.  However, these are just a few examples from a long list of items or actions that trigger a TSA investigation and may result in hefty fines and/or a referral for criminal prosecution. I RECEIVED A TSA LETTER OF INVESTIGATION (“LOI”), SHOULD I ANSWER IT?  IS IT A SCAM?

More often than not, a TSA LOI is not a scam.  Often, you’ll know that a LOI is coming because a TSA agent will explicitly tell you that your action or items are cause for an investigation. Although you do not have to answer the LOI, how you address the issue can affect the outcome of the investigation. HOW DO I REPLY TO A TSA LOI? SHOULD I REPLY TO THE LETTER MYSELF, OR GET AN ATTORNEY?

The TSA will tell you that you do not necessarily need an attorney to respond to a TSA LOI.  This is the best possible outcome for the TSA.  These civil fines are meant to punish and deter.  However, they are also a steady stream of income for the government. No matter your level of intelligence or education, there are always traps for the unwary when representing yourself. Depending on how you respond, you may also be exposing yourself to a wide range of hefty fines, or a situation as severe as a referral to the U.S. Attorney’s Office for criminal prosecution in some cases.  The maximum fine that TSA may impose in civil penalties is up to $13,669.00 per person.  If you are a repeat offender, the fines are even greater.  It is always advisable to seek counsel as soon as you receive a LOI from the TSA.     WHAT HAPPENS IF I DO NOT RESPOND TO THE LETTER OF INVESTIGATION?

The TSA will proceed with its investigation without your input, meaning you’ll likely be issued a Notice of Violation (“NOV”) without the opportunity to have your version of events documented within the official record. Your response, if any, will be passed from the investigator to a TSA attorney who will review the facts and will decide whether: 

  1. TSA will take no action

  2. TSA will take administrative action

  3. TSA will take legal action or informal adjudication

  4. In addition to numbers 1-3, the TSA may also submit the violation for referral for criminal prosecution

Should the TSA determine that you have committed a civil violation, you will be issued a NOV. In the NOV you’ll be given the fine deemed appropriate for your alleged violation.  In most cases, the TSA will offer a settlement in which you are only responsible for paying a portion of the imposed fine.  Accepting this is not advisable; you may still be paying more than you have to. 


Time is a limited resource.  Answering, replying, mitigating, explaining, and/or outright fighting a TSA civil violation is time consuming.  After a brief interview, a TSA NOV defense attorney takes the burden from his/her client and takes control of the situation. Your attorney answers, defends, mitigates, and fights for you while you go on with your day-to-day life. This saves you time, stress, and grants you peace of mind.   Further, a TSA NOV defense attorney begins mitigating your financial exposure from the first response. Thus, by having an attorney zealously representing your interests from the outset, you are limiting the proposed fine you will be paying within the applicable range. Retaining a TSA NOV defense attorney often pays for itself in terms of money saved through mitigation, or persuading the TSA to take no action against you at all. 

If you’ve received a LOI or an NOV as a result of an alleged violation during your travel through or via New York’s John F. Kennedy International Airport (“JFK”), LaGuardia Airport (“LGA”), Long Island Macarthur Airport (“ISP”), or other domestic airports contact Attorney Victor M. Feraru’s office for a free evaluation.  Receiving a letter of investigation, and/or a Notice of Violation from the TSA is a stressful and confusing situation.  Thankfully, you do not have to confront this on your own.


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