Plans to toughen penalties for those who cause airport security breaches in New Jersey continue to advance in the state Legislature.
The measure, passed last week by the Assembly, was spurred by a case earlier this year in which a lovesick graduate student slipped under a rope barrier at Newark Liberty International Airport to say goodbye to his girlfriend.
"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 Albert Coutinho, who sponsored the measure with fellow Democrat L. Grace Spencer.
If the legislation becomes law, it would create the crime of entering a restricted airport property in violation of federal security requirements. It also would create two restricted areas in public airports — a holding area for passengers and property that's been screened, and an operational area the public could not enter. Access to the latter area would be restricted by fences, and signs would be posted alerting the public that it's a prohibited area.
If the proposed legislation becomes law, anyone who knowingly trespasses in the passenger holding and operations areas would be guilty of a fourth-degree crime punishable by a fine of up to $10,000, imprisonment for up to 18 months, or both.