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Can the TSA arrest me for drugs or public intoxication?

On Behalf of | Oct 25, 2022 | Criminal Defense |

As travel increases across the country, confrontations with the Transportation Security Administration are increasing as well. This has been exacerbated by the increase in flight cancelations and delays that have left passengers at airport restaurants, lounges and bars for hours.

As a result, some travelers are passing through TSA checkpoints with drugs and in various states of intoxication. If you find yourself in such a situation, can the TSA arrest you for drugs or public intoxication?

Law enforcement versus security screening

While TSA officers may look like law enforcement officers, they are, in fact, not commissioned law enforcement officers. Indeed, they are only authorized to screen people, baggage and cargo. Then, if they find anything, they confiscate it and refer it to the airport or local police.


What happens if the TSA finds drug on you depends on the drugs they find. If the drug is legal in the state, they will confiscate it, and you will likely be allowed to proceed. If it is illegal, instead of being allowed to proceed, TSA will hold you for the airport or Savannah police. Then, they will charge you, and depending on the local district attorney you may or may not face prosecution.


Public intoxication is illegal almost everywhere in the United States, though enforcement of these laws varies from place to place. In other words, while the TSA officer cannot charge you for public intoxication, they can hold you for airport or local police to come.

Depending on the facts, the police may issue you a ticket, or they may arrest and charge you. It is up to the district attorney to either drop the charges later or proceed with prosecution.

Traveling with drugs or alcohol

Traveling with drugs or alcohol is rarely advisable, though alcohol can be safely stored and checked.