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 What is the No Fly List?

Following the terrorist attacks which occurred on September 11, 2001, the federal government of the United States took numerous steps to prevent as well as combat terrorism in the country. Among these numerous changes, the No Fly List was enacted.

The No Fly List was created as is maintained by the Terrorist Screening Center (TSC). This No Fly List bans an individual who is placed on that list from boarding any commercial aircraft for travel into, within, or out of the United States.

It is important to note that aircraft which have been boarded by individuals who were on the no fly list have been diverted away from United States air space. Not only does the No Fly List aim to combat terrorism, it also serves to provide other protections.

The No Fly List prevents certain registered sex offenders as well as certain suspected and convicted drug traffickers from flying into, within, or out of the United States.

As is to be expected, the No Fly List is not a perfect system without fault. Individuals who have no ties to terrorism as well as individuals without criminal records have, in some cases, found themsevles unable to board a flight.

Simple clerical errors may result in an unsuspecting innocent citizen being placed on the No Fly List. However, it is important to remember that the chances of being added accidentally are slim.

For individuals who are placed on the No Fly List, having their names removed from the list may be quite difficult and may pose some serious legal challenges.

Can the Public See the No Fly List?

No, the No Fly List is not available for the public to view. In many cases, individuals who are on the No Fly List are not aware that they are prohibited from flying.

The Americans for Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) filed a lawsuit in 2014 on behalf of several individuals whose names were included on the No Fly List. The court ruled in favor of these individuals, or the plaintiffs.

As a result, the government announced that it would inform United States citizens as well as lawful permanent residents if they were placed on the list as well as offer them possible reasons why they were placed on the list. Although the ruling in the case discussed above, Kariye, et al. v. Sessions, et al., challenged the constitutionality of the No Fly List, there is still ongoing litigation regarding the No Fly List citing national security risks.

It may still be necessary for an individual to purchase a ticket and attempt to board an airplane flight as the only means to determine if they are on the No Fly List.

How Do You Get on a No Fly List?

There are numerous reasons why an individual may be added to the No Fly List. This may include:

  • Individuals who travel to and from countries that are predominantly Muslim;
  • Individuals who have links to terrorists or terrorist organizations; and
  • Individuals who have made statements or threats, including online threats, which peak the government’s interest.

There are also other reasons an individual may be included on the No Fly List, such as:

  • Having a criminal history;
  • Having a name similar to a suspected terrorist;
  • A false positive; and
  • A clerical error.

A law enforcement agency can request that an individual be placed on a watchlist. Once an individual is placed on a list, it is very difficult to have that individual’s name removed from the database.

There have been many cases of false positives which involved individuals attempting to board flights who were denied boarding and then questioned. These cases involved individuals including:

  • Children;
  • Civil rights activists; and
  • Politicians.

It is also important to note that an individual may be placed on the No Fly List for disruptive behavior by an airline passenger. Disruptive behavior by an airline passenger includes any behaviors which interfere with the airline crew’s duties, including the duties of the flight attendants.

The penalties for a passenger’s disruptive behavior may vary depending on the type of laws which apply. Federal laws will apply to incidents of disruptive passenger behavior which occur within the United States on a closed door aircraft.

A closed door aircraft is an aircraft which is not connected to the walkway ramp that leads into the airport. If a disruptive incident occurs while the airplane is still connected to the walkway leading to the airport by an open door, then the laws of the local jurisdiction will apply.

Pursuant to international law, if a passenger causes a disruption, the country in which the airplane arrives may prosecute the passenger, regardless of where the flight originated from. This means that a disruptive passenger who arrives in the United States will be subject to federal law.

Disruptive behavior of an airline passenger may include:

  • Verbal threats;
  • Physical threats;
  • Intimidation; and
  • Assault.

Federal laws provide severe penalties for individuals who engage in disruptive behavior as airline passengers. If disruptive behavior occurs, the airline may file a report with the Federal Aviation Administration.

The disruptive passenger may also be subject to civil and criminal penalties if federal prosecutors file charges. Penalties may include:

  • Civil fines of up to $1,100;
  • Criminal fines of up to $10,000 for each violation of federal aviation laws;
  • A prison term of up to 20 years if the passenger was unarmed;
  • A left sentence if the passenger was armed; and
  • Being placed on the No Fly List, as previously noted.

After an individual is denied boarding on the airplane, that individual does have the right to have an attorney during any voluntary interviews with United States officials.

How Do You Get Off a No Fly List?

In many cases, an individual will find out in a very public manner that they are, in fact, on the No Fly List when they attempt to board their flight. If an individual needs to remove their name from the no fly list, they will typically be required to submit a standard form to the Department of Homeland Security Traveler Redress Inquiry Program (DHS TRIP).

After the Department of Homeland Security receives a complaint, the complaint is transmitted to the Terrorist Screening Center (TSC) for review. The ACLU provides further information on its website for an individual on what they should do if they believe they are on the No Fly List.

Unfortunately, the options an individual has regarding the No Fly List are severely limited. After an individual submits a TRIP form to the DHS, it is possible that they will only be given a limited amount of information regarding the reasons they were added to the list.

The individual can then send a second letter to the TSC. The government will then review the submission and make a final decision.

An individual does not have the right to have a hearing to appeal a decision regarding the No Fly List. If an individual or their loved one believes they are on the list, they should contact an attorney for guidance.

Do I Need a Lawyer?

It is important to have the assistance of a criminal defense attorney for any issues you may have related to the No Fly List. As noted above, it may be extremely difficult to remove your name from the No Fly List, especially without the help of an attorney.

It is possible that your case could involve a civil rights issue as well as question the constitutionality of the reasons why you were placed on the No Fly List. Your attorney can provide assistance throughout the process of challenging your name being on the No Fly List.

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