Rapper Wiz Khalifa detained for riding scooter at LAX. Is that illegal?

Images of the rapper Wiz Khalifa being subdued by officials at an airport have gone viral on social media. He claims he was riding a 'hover board.'

Rapper Wiz Khalifa arrives at the 2015 Billboard Music Awards in Las Vegas, Nevada in May. Rapper Wiz Khalifa was handcuffed and then released by Customs officers after refusing to stop riding his 'hover board' at Los Angeles International Airport, authorities said on August 23.

Rapper Wiz Khalifa just tested the boundaries of technology and civil liberty by riding an electric scooter, which he called a "hover board," in Los Angeles International Airport (LAX) and got face planted by security in the process.

Details of the incident which took place at LAX on Saturday are still hazy, with all the current information coming from Cameron Jibril Thomaz, known to his fans as Wiz Khalifa, who tweeted video and images of himself being subdued by six uniformed officers he says are US Customs officials. Neither Transportation Security Administration (TSA) nor Customs officials responded to requests for interview.

Kalifa tweeted, “All because I didn't want to ditch the technology everyone will be using in the next 6 months. Do what you want kids.”

The board, which is sold under the name “Souja Boards,” isn’t so much a Back to the Future hover board per se, as a sort of self-balancing Segway scooter without a handle bar that’s been shrunk to the size of a skateboard. The boards go by a variety of names – the version called a Cyboard states on its website that these are “TSA approved for travel.”

The product weighs about 27 pounds with a maximum speed of about seven miles per hour, a fast jogging pace.

In one video Kalifa appears to be on the board while waiting in a line, but whether that line is for a US Customs security checkpoint or baggage check-in is unclear.

“Whether that line is to pick up your ticket, or go through security is very critically important because there are different rules for those two areas, “ says Chad Marlow advocacy and policy counsel for the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) in New York in an interview. “There are basically two areas to an airport, the security checkpoint and everywhere else. And so with respect to everywhere else, other than a security checkpoint, the same rules apply as apply anywhere else in society. The same rules for unwarranted stop and frisk apply.”

“If someone’s trying to ride a 'hover board' through a security checkpoint it’s plausible to want to check the device,” Mr. Marlow says. “But nobody’s going to be that dumb and try and ride one through there.”

Anthony Roman, president of Roman and Associates, a global investigations and risk management firm has personally test driven a version of the vehicle and says in an interview, “I suspect Wiz being stopped by customs agents or TSA is a result of the agents being surprised by the new technology. If so, it reflects that their level of training may need updating.” Although, with the lack of information from US Customs or TSA it is hard to say why he was stopped and arrested. 

Mr. Roman concludes, “In any situation where there is new technology it seems it would be appropriate for security personnel to inspect the device. However, if you are outside a security area of the airport, there should be appropriate warnings throughout the airport that TSA and law enforcement can approach you at any time to inspect anything you have at all.”

“My recommendation is if any order is given to you by an officer or a federal agent, obey the order and sort out whether it’s a legal order or not afterwards. If you then feel that it’s not a lawful order, then file your complaint,” Roman says. “It’s a much easier process.”

However, he concludes, “Some people are civil disobedience-minded and choose to protest in their own way and suffer the inconvenience of arrest. Concerning Wiz, only he knows his motives,” Roman adds. “What are his possible motives? Civil disobedience or a publicity stunt to promote the 'hover board' by riding it in highly public areas?”

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