Federal and State Law Prohibits Pointing a Laser at an Aircraft

If state or federal law enforcement accuses you of pointing a laser at an aircraft or moving train, you should quickly obtain a strong, experienced defense lawyer.

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Is Pointing a Laser at an Aircraft a Serious Crime?

State and federal law enforcement is doing everything possible to identify, investigate, and prosecute individuals accused of pointing a laser at an aircraft or moving train. Prosecutors and judges are resolutely harsh in these cases because of the perceived threat to passengers, national security, and transportation employees. It takes a robust, proactive defense strategy to help someone avoid a charge and conviction.

What exactly is a laser?

LASER stands for Light Amplified by Stimulated Emission of Radiation. There are many types of lasers, from small hand-held pointers to large industrial or military types. People commit most laser-pointing-related crimes with relatively small lasers, which are legal and readily available for about $50.00. They are legal because they have several legitimate uses, such as campers’ and survivalists’ use to start campfires, self-defense, signal for help, and directing an audience’s attention during presentations. Because many lasers are legal and relatively small, most people don’t realize that pointing a laser directly into a person’s eyes is more damaging than looking at the Sun.

Pointing a Laser at an Aircraft Charges Are Becoming More Common

Most people find it astonishing how often people commit this offense. We hear once in a great while about someone laser-tagging an airplane or a police helicopter, etc., but many more instances occur that we don’t hear about. The number of laser-pointing incidents with planes, as counted by the federal government from 2018 to 2022, is 57,835. The number of incidents in Michigan from 2010 to 2020 is 810.

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Federal and Michigan State Response to Increasing Laser-Airplane Incidents

Laser-plane incidents are a relatively recent problem; personal lasers have not been available for long. In 2012, the federal government responded to these incidents by enacting a new crime, Aiming a Laser Pointer at an Aircraft. Until 2017, Michigan authorities relied on the federal government to prosecute laser crimes. In 2017, however, Michigan enacted a law so local authorities could respond quickly to an incident and investigate cases. Michigan’s legislature felt it appropriate to add trains to the law because several laser-train incidents had occurred.

Reward for Turning in Laser Abusers

The federal government has a $10,000.00 reward for information leading to the arrest of anyone who points a laser at a plane. Although none of the laser-plane incidents that have occurred thus far have caused a plane to crash or permanently injured a pilot, the potential harm if the laser beam hits a pilot just right justifies the reward.

Federal and State Laws and Penalties

Two laws, (1) Aiming a Laser Pointer at an Aircraft and (2) the Medical Device Amendments to the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act, cover laser-plane incidents.

The penalty for aiming a laser at an aircraft or its flight path is five (5) years in prison and an $11,000.00 fine. The fine for a second offense is $30,000.00.

Michigan’s criminal statute, Directed Energy Emitted from Directed Energy Device (Laser) at Aircraft or Moving Train, sets the penalty at up to five (5) years in jail, five (5) years of probation, and a $10,000.00 fine.

Because judges are inclined to incarcerate most defendants for these offenses, a top-rated, seasoned criminal defense expert is the best hope of avoiding a harsh sentence in state or federal court.

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You Need the Best Attorney You Can Find

You can rest assured that anyone charged with this offense will face a steely and determined prosecutor who will seek a jail term for the offender. Likewise, judges will patiently await a guilty verdict and then forcefully drop the hammer. Defendants in these cases need a talented and respected criminal defense lawyer, like those with LEWIS & DICKSTEIN, P.L.L.C., who tenaciously and fearlessly fight to get their clients a favorable plea bargain or for an acquittal at trial. LEWIS & DICKSTEIN, P.L.L.C.’s attorneys are well-known and respected by federal and state prosecutors. We are precisely the type of firm you want at your side if you are accused of a laser offense.

Call us today at (248) 263-6800 for a free consultation or complete an online Request for Assistance Form. We will contact you promptly and find a way to help you.

We will find a way to help you and, most importantly,
we are not afraid to win!

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