Civil Enforcement Actions in Transportation Cases: FAA and TSA

Businesses and Individuals can be fined by TSA for Violations of rules and regulations regarding the transportation of cargo or carrying prohibited items on board an airplane.

After the 9/11 attacks, Congress enacted laws to help protect the U.S. from further attacks. Transportation activities in the U.S. are regulated and enforced by Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and Transportation Security Administration (TSA). TSA enacted regulations to enforce these laws. Not only do these agencies have the right to inspect and enforce rules regarding Homeland Security, but they also have the ability to impose civil penalties in the event of non-compliance. The success of any business involved in the transportation industry requires an understanding of these laws and an ability to defend any alleged violations.


If you are a business that is in any way linked to air cargo shipments passing through our airports then you are at risk of being inspected , investigated and assessed a civil penalty by the Department of Homeland Security or TSA. You may be at risk for violations and not even realize it.

  • Does your business warehouse, transport or screen air cargo?
  • Do you own a trucking company that transports air cargo (freight forwarder)? Does your business include the shipping of air cargo?
  • Does your company provide warehouse staffing to freight forwarders?

If you are within the chain of custody of the movement of air cargo utilizing air carriers, then you are subject to special rules that require attention. This is serious stuff since violations could result in civil penalties or fines starting at $11,000.00.

Businesses are at risk of being investigated by the Federal Aviation Administration (“FAA”) and the Transportation Security Administration (“TSA”). Any number of violations can lead to an investigation. By being involved in the movement of air cargo and the chain of custody, you are required to comply with Title 49 of the Code of Federal Regulations (49 CFR 1500) and may be inspected or investigated to ensure compliance.

How do you know you’re being investigated? Typically the owner will be present during an inspection so you will be aware of the investigation. You will also receive a Letter of Investigation (“LOI”). Usually a Letter of Investigation will allow you 20-30 days to respond. In order to protect your rights, you should contact our office immediately when you receive a Letter of Investigation.

After the investigation has been completed, legal action may be taken against you or your business usually in the form of Civil Action Penalties (or Fines). If violations are found and the FAA or TSA decides to proceed against your business you will receive a Notice of Proposed Civil Penalty. The amount of the fine(s) varies depending on the violation(s) and the severity of the violation(s).

Some common violations include:

  • Fraud and intentional falsification of records
  • Known shipper violation
  • Training records violations
  • Access control violations
  • Screening violations
  • Records keeping
  • Controlling custody of air cargo
  • Circumvention of security programs
  • Security Threat Assessment

The administrative enforcement process in transportation cases is complicated and requires knowledge of the laws and to defend any civil enforcement actions brought by the FAA and TSA, specifically. Our firm can represent your business during the process and will negotiate directly with FAA or TSA in order to negotiate a settlement to avoid trial. These civil penalties can seriously affect your business. If you have received a Letter of Investigation or a Notice of Proposed Civil Penalty, please contact Attorney Misty J. Cygan at 847.823.9030 Ext: 234 or

Individuals Charged with Boarding a Plane with Prohibited Items

We have all gone through the screening process before boarding a plane. TSA’s inspections are intended to protect passengers and the carrier from in-air attacks. If you are found to be carrying a prohibited item, TSA regularly tickets and fines persons for having prohibited items at the airports. The minimum for these types of violations are $6,000!

Common violations include:

  • Ammunition
  • Bludgeon devices
  • Guns, firearms
  • Knives, box-cutter, razor
  • Tools
  • Shape objects
  • Self-defense items (brass knuckles, nunchucks)

For TSA’s Prohibited Items list, go to this federal brochure. TSA not only regulates passengers and travelers, but also regulates all employees at O’Hare International and Midway Airports. If you received a Notice of Violation for a civil penalty for having a prohibited item at the airport, it could be costly. If you have received a Notice of Violation, you will need legal representation. Contact Attorney Misty J. Cygan at at 847.823.9030 Ext: 234 or for legal counsel.