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Does the TSA do drug busts?

On Behalf of | Nov 1, 2022 | Drug Crimes |

When you go to the airport, you can also expect a Transportation Security Administration officer will search your stuff, and your body. But what happens when those officers find drugs? Does the TSA do drug busts?

Does the TSA do drug busts?

No. That is not what the TSA does.

While TSA officers in Illinois look like police officers, they are not, in fact, law enforcement. Instead, they are federally employed searchers. They search airplane passengers, bags and cargo for contraband and dangerous items, but they do not arrest anyone when they find such illegal items.

Instead, TSA agents refer it to another law enforcement agency, depending on what they found.

What if they find drugs?

That really depends on the type of drug, the state where the incident happens and the amount found.

First, if the drug is legal in Illinois or where the airport is located, TSA confiscates it, but since it is legal, you will likely be allowed to board your flight.

However, if the drug quantity exceeds what is locally legal, you may be referred to the airport or local police department for arrest and charge. For enormous quantities of drugs, you may be referred to the FBI or DEA. These referrals are extremely rare.

If you are found with drugs that are locally illegal, the TSA officer will detain you and confiscate your drugs. Either the airport police or local police may then arrest you for drug possession and distribution, depending on the quantity.

What happens after the arrest?

After your arrest, you will face criminal drug prosecution like any other person accused of drug possession or distribution in Illinois. The local district attorney will need to decide whether to prosecute.

Depending on the drug you had, the quantity and local policy, the DA may not elect to prosecute. Many DAs are not prosecuting first-time offenders or those with lesser amounts of marijuana.

Even so, once the handcuffs come out, do not forget to ask for an attorney.