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United States v. Garrett

United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit
984 F.2d 1402 (1993)


Regina Garrett (defendant) was attempting to board a commercial flight. While passing through airport security, she placed her bag on the conveyor belt of an x-ray scanner. As it passed through, a guard noticed a dark mass in the purse. Garrett consented to a search of the bag, and a small, loaded hand gun was recovered. Garrett told the guard that she had forgotten the gun was in her bag. Garrett was charged with attempting to board an aircraft with a concealed weapon in violation of § 1472(l)(1) of the Federal Aviation Act, which carries the potential of a fine of up to $10,000 and a prison sentence of up to one year. Garrett waived her right to a jury trial and was tried before a United States Magistrate Judge. At trial, Garrett testified that she was a frequent air traveler, she knew it was illegal to bring a gun through security, and that though she did not remember she had the gun in this particular bag, she had put her wallet and other items in the bag on the day of travel. Evidence presented also showed that there were two large, bright signs near the security checkpoint stating that it was illegal to carry weapons beyond that point, and violators would be subject to prosecution. The magistrate found Garrett guilty, concluding that § 1472(l)(1) carried a should-have-known mens rea requirement. Garrett appealed, arguing that her conviction was invalid, because the magistrate did not find that she had actual knowledge the gun was in her purse. In response, the government contended that the statute was a strict liability offense with no intent requirement.

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Holding and Reasoning (Garwood, J.)

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