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People v. Hysner





APPEAL from the Circuit Court of Cook County; the Hon. JOHN J. McDONNELL, Judge, presiding.


After a bench trial in the circuit court of Cook County, defendant Dale Hysner was found guilty of attempting to board an aircraft while having a firearm in his possession. (Ill. Rev. Stat. 1975, ch. 38, par. 84-1.) He was sentenced to a term of one year conditional discharge. The issues presented for review are: (1) whether passing a security screening area before entering the concourse where the gates to the aircraft are located constitutes an attempt to board an aircraft; and (2) whether defendant was exempt by reason of a New York license to carry a weapon and without notifying the proper authorities of his possession of the firearm. We affirm the trial court.

Patty Olander testified. She worked for Security Services and her duties were to screen passenger baggage with an X-ray machine. The machines are located before reaching the concourse area. On April 11, 1976, she screened defendant's suitcase and noted the presence of a gun inside. She called Officer Bolin and asked defendant to open the suitcase. Defendant was cooperative but did not tell her he had a permit from the State of New York to carry a weapon.

Officer Bolin testified that he was a security officer at O'Hare Field. On April 11, 1976, about 4:30 p.m., he arrested defendant after finding a loaded .25-caliber automatic pistol underneath some clothes in his suitcase. Defendant had a ticket for Rochester, New York, and defendant showed him a license to carry a pistol granted by the State of New York.

Defendant testified. He was a self-employed electrical contractor living in Rochester, New York, 35 years old, married, had three children, and had never been arrested. On April 11, 1976, he was at O'Hare Field, returning to Rochester from a bowling trip to South Bend, Indiana. When he arrived at the airport, he tried to check his baggage. Defendant was told it was too late and he would have to go to the gate with the luggage. He stated he did not intend to carry it onto the plane. Defendant admitted he had failed to indicate to the baggage check personnel that there was a gun in the suitcase. He further testified he had flown approximately twice in the last year and he was aware of the duties of the security people.


Defendant first contends that passing through a screening area in the outer terminal, prior to entering the concourse where the gates to the aircraft are located, does not constitute an attempt to board an aircraft as proscribed by Illinois Revised Statutes 1975, chapter 38, paragraph 84-1, *fn1 which paragraph provides:

"It is unlawful for any person to board or attempt to board any commercial or charter aircraft, having in his possession any firearm, explosive of any type or other lethal or dangerous weapon."

Defendant argues the literal or obvious meaning of the word "board" cannot be accomplished when the person charged has not even entered the departure lounge. He further argues the term "to board or attempt to board" is, therefore, ambiguous and such ambiguity must be resolved in his favor.

There are no cases which have construed the Illinois statute, but there are cases construing a similar Federal statute (49 U.S.C.A. § 1472 (l)(1) (1976)), which prohibits boarding or attempting to board an aircraft while in possession of a concealed deadly weapon which would be accessible during the flight.

In United States v. Wilkinson (W.D. Pa. 1975), 389 F. Supp. 465, 467, aff'd (3d Cir. 1975), 521 F.2d 1400, the court rejected a contention similar to that made by defendant in this case. There, the fact that the screening device which detected defendant's weapon was located before the area where a passenger would surrender the ticket to the airline agent was expressly stated to be of no relevant significance in light of the facts which proved defendant passed through the area in order to board a plane.

In United States v. Brown (W.D. Tex. 1969), 305 F. Supp. 415, 417-18, defendant was arrested in a departure lounge after he was discovered to be carrying a weapon. The court stated that surrendering the plane ticket at the customer service agent's desk and the subsequent entry into the departure lounge for the flight shown on the ticket constituted an attempt to board the aircraft to be used on that flight.

In United States v. Flum (8th Cir. 1975), 518 F.2d 39, a case very similar to the one at bar, defendant arrived at the airport, purchased a ticket and was instructed to proceed immediately to the gate where the passengers were already boarding. Defendant was arrested while passing through a security post prior to reaching the departure gate when it was discovered he had a butcher knife inside his suitcase and a switchblade knife inside a small box with other belongings. In spite of defendant's testimony that he had intended to check the bags prior to boarding, but lacked time to do so, the court sustained his conviction based on a violation of the Federal statute.

It has also been held that the Federal statute defines a general intent crime in which no specific intent need be proved. (United States v. Flum; United States v. Dishman (9th Cir. 1973), 486 F.2d 727, and United States v. Margraf (3d Cir. 1973), 483 F.2d 708, vacated on other grounds, 414 U.S. 1106, 38 L.Ed.2d 734, 94 S.Ct. 833, on remand, 493 F.2d 1206 (3d Cir. 1974).) Therefore, the fact that a defendant had no ...

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