Civil Penalties

A person is liable to the U.S. Government for a civil penalty for violating certain enumerated statutory provisions or a regulation prescribed or order issued under any such provision[i].  Pursuant to federal statute, the Federal Aviation Administration Administrator is authorized to impose these civil penalties[ii].

A civil penalty will also be imposed if a person gives false information knowing that the information is false[iii].  Further, an individual who, when on an aircraft, has a concealed dangerous weapon, that is or would be accessible to the individual in flight, will be subject to a civil penalty[iv].

Pursuant to 49 USCS § 46304, when an aircraft is involved in the violation of provisions of the Federal Aviation Act and the violation is by the owner of or individual commanding the aircraft, the aircraft is subject to a lien for the civil penalty.

Further, it is unlawful for any person to operate or navigate any aircraft eligible for registration if such aircraft is not registered by its owner[v].  Anyone operating, or permitting operation of an unregistered aircraft is strictly liable for the civil penalty.

The government may pursue civil penalties for violation of a safety regulation without first obtaining an administrative assessment of penalties.  Administrative assessment of penalties is required[vi]:

  • if the penalty relates to the transportation of hazardous materials,
  • if the penalty is imposed for violation of any provision which relates to economic regulation of air carriers, or
  • if the penalty issues for violations which govern establishment of through service and joint fares within specified states and for overseas flights.


All aircraft, both civil and public, in the absence of an emergency, are to be subject to the flight rules of the Federal Aviation Agency and the instructions of the air traffic control[vii].

[i] 49 USCS § 46301.

[ii] 49 USCS § 46301 (d) (2).

[iii] 49 USCS § 46302.

[iv] 49 USCS § 46303.

[v] United States v. One Helicopter, 770 F. Supp. 436 (N.D. Ill. 1991).

[vi] United States v. Gaunce, 779 F.2d 1434 (9th Cir. Cal. 1986).

[vii] United States v. Christensen, 419 F.2d 1401, 1403 (9th Cir. Alaska 1969).

Inside Civil Penalties