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US: New Michigan law targets directed energy aimed at aircraft, trains

A new law in Michigan will take aim at perpetrators who aim laser pointers at aircraft. The penalty is up to 5 years in state prison and a fine of up to $10,000. The bill was signed by Michigan Governor Rick Snyder May 9 2017 and will take effect 90 days later.

The bill was introduced February 27 2017 after a number of laser pointer incidents in the state.

Although there is a similar federal law (5 years in federal prison and fine up to $250,000), the legislators who introduced the Michigan bill said the state can now prosecute, whether or not federal officials choose to prosecute. Prior to passage of the law, state or local law enforcement could not arrest laser perpetrators unless they committed a separate offense under state or local law.

The bill makes it illegal to intentionally aim “a beam of directed energy emitted from a directed energy device at an aircraft or into the path of an aircraft or a moving train.” The bill defines “directed energy device” as “any device that emits highly focused energy and is capable of transferring that energy to a target to damage or interfere with its operation. The energy from a directed energy device would include the following forms of energy:

-- Electromagnetic radiation, including radio frequency, microwave, lasers, and masers.
-- Particles with mass, in particle-beam weapons and devices.
-- Sound, in sonic weapons and devices.”

As with the federal law, there are exceptions in the bill for FAA and DOD authorized users, and for persons using a laser emergency signaling device to send an emergency distress signal.

There were actually two bills introduced by Republican state representatives Laura Cox and Tom Barrett. House Bill 4063 made it a crime to aim directed energy at aircraft or a moving train. HB 4064 also adds the laser provisions to sentencing guidelines.

HB 4063 originally passed the House March 16 2017 by a vote of 107-1. An amended version passed the Senate April 25, 111-37 and passed the House May 2, 105-2. It was sent to the Governor on May 4.

From the Detroit News (March 16 story, May 2 story), U.S. News and World Report, and the Michigan legislature website page for HB 4063.

UK: New law proposes prison for aiming laser pens at aircraft, trains, cars, other vehicles

The U.K. Department for Transport on February 5 2017 said it would propose a new law making it illegal to shine laser light towards an aircraft, train, or road vehicle.

It is more stringent than the current law which 1) only applies to aiming at aircraft, 2) requires prosecutors to prove that the perpetrator endangered the aircraft and 3) has a fine of up to £2,500 (USD $3,112).

The new law will 1) apply to a wider variety of transport modes including automobiles, 2) require prosecutors only to prove that the laser was directed towards the transport vehicle and 3) will also add the prospect of prison time to the potential punishment. The exact new fines and prison terms were not stated in the DfT announcement.
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