Outside Legal Counsel PLC

Michigan Law Still Bans Knives Despite TSA Change (But Not For Long)

For Immediate Release | Mar 18, 2013

Beginning April 25th, the US Transportation Security Administration will change its rules regarding the allowance of pocket knives and other previously banned sporting equipment.

New TSA rules will permit pocket knives 2.36 inches long and less than a half-inch wide, plus billiard cues, toy bats, ski poles, hockey and lacrosse sticks and up to two golf clubs.

However, Michigan travelers are still under the ban regarding pocket knives.

Despite the change of federal law, Michigan also has opted to continue a previously enacted state-level ban more restrictive than TSA's forthcoming rules.

Under Michigan's Aeronautics Code, firearms, explosives, knives, razors and box cutters are banned in the area defined as the sterile area of a Michigan commercial airport. Bringing any of these items into the sterile area can result in a $1,000 fine. Boarding or attempting to board an aircraft with these items is a felony punishable by a ten year prison term and/or a $10,000 fine.

So while TSA rules are changing, Michigan travelers are still under prohibitions different than other states' airports. But the continued sustainability of the Michigan law is questionable. Oddly troubling, a traveler who has a pocket knife on an airplane from another state will automatically commit a violation of the Michigan Aeronautics Code as soon as he or she enters Michiganís airspace. Being Detroit is a major hub for Delta (formerly Northwest), travelers from all over the world could find themselves in hot water from the airport police.

The Michigan law will likely be trashed under a legal doctrine known as preemption.

The preemption doctrine holds that federal law supersedes all state laws because federal laws are the supreme law of the land as provided by the Supremacy Clause (Article VI, clause 2) of the United States Constitution.

Because federal law now allows knives, the state law improperly acts as an obstacle to the accomplishment and execution of the full purposes and objectives of the new federal regulation. As such, this Michigan crime will likely be thrown out if anyone is charged with the crime.