Aiming Laser Pointer at Helicopters Ends in Jail Time for Offenders (18 US Code 39A)

Aiming Laser Pointer at Helicopters Ends in Jail Time for Offenders (18 US Code 39A)

Rabin Nabizadeh
March 10, 2014

The Federal Aviation Administration has recently taken notice of high-powered laser pointers and the FBI is making arrests.  So, what could be so wrong with using a high-powered laser pointer?

The problem is that citizens are using these laser pointers for a little more dangerous brand of fun:  pointing them at emergency service-related helicopters and other aircraft.  High-powered laser pointers are able to send a dot of red light into the cockpits of these aircraft, making it difficult for the pilots inside to see.  The federal government takes ‘lasing’ aircraft to be a very serious crime indeed.  In fact, in recent news a 26-year-old man and 23-year-old woman were both sentenced for their 2012 actions, the prosecution having proven that they ‘lased’ several police and hospital helicopters at the Fresno Yosemite International Airport.  He was sentenced to a whopping 14 years in prison, while she received a 5-year sentence for her actions.

As few people know about (18 US Code 39A) “Aiming a laser pointer at an aircraft,” it is possible that both did not even understand that they were violating federal law. This federal law dictates that, if convicted, a person could face fines and up to 5 years in prison for each count.

 

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