A bill to toughen the penalty for an airport security breach has already passed the full New Jersey Assembly and it’s now been approved by the Senate Law and Public Safety Committee. The legislation was inspired by an ill-advised kiss.

Newark Liberty International Airport (Matthew Peyton, Getty Images)

At Newark Liberty International Airport in 2010, Haisong Jiang, 28, a Rutgers University graduate student, slipped under a security ribbon after a guard briefly left his post. He entered an area where passengers already had been screened. When someone noticed what happened, the terminal was shut down for six hours. Jiang claims he just wanted to give his girlfriend a kiss.

“Mr. Jiang was sentenced to 100 hours of community service and a $658 fine, but his goodbye kiss cost taxpayers and commuters thousands of dollars,” said Assemblywoman Grace Spencer, one the bill’s co-sponsors. “Clearly our law needs updating. Lovesick is fine, but it cannot involve jeopardizing the lives of thousands of people and violating the security regulations.”

The bill would establish the crime of entering into restricted airport property in violation of federal security requirements. It sets forth two restricted areas on public airports. The first area, a “sterile area,” is defined as any portion of an airport that provides passengers access to boarding aircraft and to which the access generally is controlled by the Transportation Security Administration, an aircraft operator or an air carrier, through the screening of persons and property. The second area, an “operational area,” is defined as any portion of a public airport, from which access by the public is prohibited by fences or appropriate signs.

“We need to send a stronger message that airport security rules meant to protect the public and keep airport travel orderly cannot be taken lightly,” said Assemblyman Al Coutinho, another co-sponsor. “We’ve been in a new day and age since 9/11 and our state laws must accurately reflect that reality.”

The measure will now be considered further by the Senate President, who will decide when to post it for a floor vote.

“We know all too well that security threats exist, so obviously we need more than the threat of disorderly persons charge for those who violate basic airport security rules,” explained Assemblywoman Annette Quijano, the third co-sponsor. “It’s puzzling that someone who violates airport security and disrupts national air travel and the lives of thousands of people is facing the same charge as someone who would, for example, spit on a sidewalk.”

Serious Punishment

The bill provides that any person who trespasses in these areas in violation of federal security requirements is guilty of a fourth degree crime. A crime of the fourth degree is punishable by a fine of up to $10,000, imprisonment for a term of up to 18 months, or both.