On May 8, 2011, Rageh Ahmed Mohammed Al-Murisi, was flying on American Airlines Flight 1561 from Chicago to San Francisco, when he allegedly arose from his seat and began knocking on the cockpit door. Passengers and flight crew members held Mr. Al-Murisi down until police arrested him when the plane made a safe landing at San Francisco International Airport.
Rageh Ahmed Mohammed Al-Murisi has been charged in federal court with a violation of Title 18, United States Code Section 46504, which is knowingly interfering with the performance of the duties of flight crew members or attendants of an aircraft.
After being made aware of this federal law, as a Criminal Defense Attorney I couldn’t help but think of the various situations in which a person could be charged under this statute.
The exact reading of Section 46505 is as follows:
An individual on an aircraft in the special aircraft jurisdiction of the United States who, by assaulting or intimidating a flight crew member or flight attendant of the aircraft, interferes with the performance of the duties of the member or attendant or lessens the ability of the member or attendant to perform those duties, or attempts or conspires to do such an act, shall be fined under title 18, imprisoned for not more than 20 years, or both. However, if a dangerous weapon is used in assaulting or intimidating the member or attendant, the individual shall be imprisoned for any term of years or for life.
The unsettling thing about this law is its vagueness and the extreme consequences for a violation of it. “[B]y assaulting or intimidating a flight member or flight attendant of the aircraft, interferes with the performance of the duties . . . .” What exactly does this mean? Is an intoxicated passenger that becomes upset with a flight crew member interfering with the flight attendant’s performance of her duties?
Even more, if you were to "interfere" you face up to twenty years in federal prison! Or life in prison if a dangerous weapon was used.
Being conscious of this federal law is important, as there could be grave consequences for even a minor incident.
If you or a loved one finds yourself charged under this statute, call Attorney Christopher Morales today to ensure an experienced criminal defense attorney is on your side.