"When I received the letter I just flipped out. I take it very personally given everything else that happened," said Hays, 58, adding that she would refuse to pay the $2,500 penalty. "Unfortunately, sometimes people in positions of authority are unethical, unprofessional or just downright criminal in their activity. And in that case, if you're in the right, you need to stand up for yourself. And that's what I did in my case — what they did was wrong, and what I did was right."
TSA identified several options for Hays to contest the fine, including appearing before an administrative law judge.
TSA spokeswoman Suzanne Treviño said privacy laws prevent her from commenting on whether the agency is seeking a civil assessment against Hays. Generally, alleged criminal violations, even if dismissed, can also lead to civil action, she said.
"There's no double jeopardy, if you will," Treviño said. "Just because a case may be dismissed criminally, it can still be pursued civilly."
Hays was stopped about 12:55 p.m. in April last year at a Bob Hope Airport security checkpoint. A TSA supervisor told airport police that Hays made a fist and struck her on the hand as they tugged at an ice chest, according to the arrest report.
Hays denied hitting the agent, maintaining that she brought down her hand to keep agents from taking away her mother's applesauce, cheese, milk and soda. In the May 12 civil penalty notice, TSA claims that during the screening Hays was advised that items in the cooler, including liquids, were oversized and not allowed. According to the notice, Hays reached into the cooler while an agent held it and grabbed a can of soda, a prohibited item.