Laser pointers are useful tools for professors in the classroom and fun for people to play with outdoors. We may think of them as harmless in everyday life, but if they are used irresponsibly, they have the potential to cause serious damage. In a recent federal court case, a California man was sentenced to 14 years in prison for pointing a laser pointer at a police helicopter.1
In 2012, Sergio Patrick Rodriguez was accused of pointing a high-powered green laser 13 times more powerful than a conventional laser pointer at a Fresno Police Department helicopter that was responding to a call to a children’s hospital.2 Rodriguez was charged with aiming a laser pointer at an aircraft and attempting to interfere with the safe operation of an aircraft, both felony crimes.3
In March 2014, Rodriguez was found guilty of both charges and sentenced to 14 years in federal prison, among the longest sentences for such a crime.4 A federal conviction for aiming a laser pointer at an aircraft usually results in a maximum five-year sentence. However, the sentence was increased due to Rodriguez’s significant criminal record including numerous probation violations and gang affiliations.5
Pointing a laser at an aircraft can blind pilots and lead to crashes. It is important to be aware of proper procedure for handling things as simple as a laser pointer. If you or a loved one is facing a charge of pointing a laser pointer at an aircraft, it is important to have a Wallin & Klarich attorney who will fight for you.
Aiming a Laser Pointer at an Aircraft – United States Code 18 Section 39(a)
You can be charged with aiming a laser pointer at an aircraft at a state or federal level. The serious nature of Rodriguez’s arrest and past criminal record led to his being charged at the federal level.
Under U.S. Code 18 Section 39(a), it is unlawful to knowingly aim the beam of a laser pointer at an aircraft in the jurisdiction of the United States, or at the flight path of such an aircraft. A conviction for aiming a laser pointer at an aircraft is a felony punishable by up to five years in federal prison and a fine of up to $250,000.
Aiming a Laser Pointer at an Aircraft – California Penal Code Section 247.5
You can also be charged with aiming a laser pointer at an aircraft at a state level. Under California Penal Code Section 248, it is unlawful to willfully and maliciously discharge a laser at an aircraft, whether in motion or in flight, while occupied.
Aiming a laser pointer at an aircraft can be charged as a misdemeanor or felony in the state of California. A misdemeanor conviction for aiming a laser pointer at an aircraft is punishable by up to one year in county jail and a $1,000 fine. A felony conviction is punishable by 16 months, two years or three years in state prison and a $2,000 fine.
Aiming a Laser Pointer at a Person – California Penal Code Section 417.25
It is a crime to aim a laser pointer at a person in a threatening manner with the specific intent to cause a reasonable person fear of bodily harm under California Penal Code Section 417.25. A conviction under Penal Coe Section 417.25 is a misdemeanor punishable by up to 30 days in county jail.
Aiming a Laser Pointer at a Peace Officer – California Penal Code Section 417.26
It is a crime for a person to aim a laser pointer at a peace officer with the specific intent to cause the officer apprehension or fear of bodily harm and know that the person at whom he or she is aiming or pointing is a peace officer under California Penal Code Section 417.26. A conviction for aiming a laser pointer at a peace officer is a misdemeanor punishable by up to six months in county jail.
Call Wallin & Klarich Today
If you or a loved one is facing a charge of aiming a laser pointer at an aircraft or person, it is critical that you speak to an experienced criminal defense attorney. At Wallin & Klarich, our attorneys have over 30 years of experience in handling all types of felony cases at a state and federal level in Southern California. Our attorneys will fight to get you the best possible outcome in your case.
With offices in Los Angeles, Sherman Oaks, Torrance, Tustin, San Diego, Riverside, San Bernardino, Ventura, West Covina and Victorville, there is an experienced Wallin & Klarich Southern California criminal defense attorney near you no matter where you work or live.
Call us today at (888) 280-6839 for a free phone consultation. We will get through this together.
1. [Man Who Pointed Laser at Plane Gets 14 Year Sentence, March 10, 2014 http://www.myfoxla.com/story/24937177/man-who?utm_source=dlvr.it&utm_medium=twitter]↩