The interaction between airline personal and members of the general public since September 11, 2001 seems to have changed and not in a positive way. Indeed, news reports of incidents involving people accused of crimes such as assaulting or harassing flight crew attendants or interfering with a member of a flight crew or operation of the aircraft in any way seem to have increased dramatically since 9/11. Is this change due in part to the hyper-sensitive reaction of flight attendants or flight crew to any criticism or concern raised by members of the flying public? If you find yourself in the position of being under arrest in these circumstances you just might think so.
Unfortunately, some conversations between flight attendants and the general public are often viewed as arguments or complaints that have escalated to the point where what we see now is the innocent individual being detained on the plane, arrested upon landing and prosecuted in the nearest court within the airport’s jurisdiction. The police take the statements of the airline crew at face value to substantiate the arrest and they seem more than happy to provide information that the person was in some way disruptive or disorderly while on a plane. Ultimately, the post-9/11 airline crackdown on alleged bad behavior may have had a chilling effect on speech and has led to many improper arrests of members of the flying public.
In Massachusetts, under M.G.L. Chapter 90, Section 40, a person can be prosecuted for interfering with, or threatening to interfere with the operation of an aircraft. The penalty for violation of this law is significant and involves imprisonment for not less than one month or not more than six months. Fines ranging from $10 to $500 may be imposed in addition to any incarceration. If a person is convicted of this crime also referred to as “interference with a flight crew”, the clerk magistrate of the court must report the conviction to the Massachusetts Aeronautics Commission.
If you have been accused of a crime while on an airplane that lands at Logan Airport in Boston, Massachusetts, you may be taken into custody by a trooper from the Massachusetts State Police (Troop F). Your case will fall under the jurisdiction of the East Boston Division of the Boston Municipal Court located at 37 Meridian Street in Maverick Square, East Boston, Massachusetts. You will either be released after posting bail at the F Troop State Police barracks and given a date to appear for arraignment in court or you will be detained by the police and taken to the East Boston District Court on the day or your arrest or the next available date if you cannot post bail and your arrest occurs over the weekend or on a day when the court is closed.