Shining a laser pointer at an aircraft might feel innocuous from the ground, but a police video from California illustrates the risk and extreme legal ramifications of doing so.
Orange County Sheriff’s Department shared remarkable footage of a 41-year-old man shining a laser at a police helicopter – before being followed and then arrested just five minutes later.
When posted to the police office’s Facebook page, the video was accompanied with a warning of the law regarding “discharging a laser at an aircraft” – the crime the man was taken into custody and charged over.
The department said in March 2015 a man was sentenced to 14 years in prison for the crime in the Californian city of Fresno.
Directing a laser pointer at an aircraft became a crime in California in 2012 and the 2015 sentence was given as an attempt to discourage others.
The office said the reasoning behind the long sentences was due to the threat they pose to pilots, with the infrared beam capable of refracting off the aircraft and disorientating the pilots – or if it caught the pilot in the eye it could cause “retina damage, headaches and flash-blindness”.