TRENTON– Legislation to increase the penalty for an airport security breach has been signed into law. The bill was inspired by the 2010 incident at Newark Liberty International Airport involving a 28-year-old graduate student slipped under a security ribbon after a guard briefly left his post. The man entered an area where passengers already had been screened to give his girlfriend a goodbye kiss. When someone noticed what happened, the terminal was shut down for six hours.
He was sentenced to 100 hours of community service and $658 fine, but someone who did the same thing under the new law would face up to 18 months in jail and up to a $10,000 fine.
“We needed to send a stronger message that airport security rules meant to protect the public and keep airport travel orderly cannot be taken lightly,” said Assemblyman Albert Coutinho (D-Essex). “We’ve been in a new day and age since 9/11 and our state laws must accurately reflect that reality.”
“We know all too well that security threats exist, so obviously we need more than the threat of disorderly persons charge for those who violate basic airport security rules,” said Assemblywoman Annette Quijano (D-Union). “It’s puzzling that someone who violates airport security and disrupts national air travel and the lives of thousands of people is facing the same charge as someone who would, for example, spit on a sidewalk.”
The new law establishes the crime of entering into restricted airport property in violation of federal security requirements.
It sets forth two restricted areas on public airports.
The first area, a “sterile area,” is defined as any portion of an airport that provides passengers access to boarding aircraft and to which the access generally is controlled by the Transportation Security Administration, an aircraft operator or an air carrier, through the screening of persons and property.
The second area, an “operational area,” is defined as any portion of a public airport, from which access by the public is prohibited by fences or appropriate signs.
The law provides that any person who trespasses in these areas in violation of federal security requirements is guilty of a fourth degree crime. A crime of the fourth degree is punishable by a fine of up to $10,000, imprisonment for a term of up to 18 months, or both.
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