A comprehensive resource for safe and responsible laser use

New Zealand: 10 weeks for aiming at two planes; control tower

Tane Hemopo, 36
Hornby, Christchurch, New Zealand


On April 5 2016, Tane Hemopo, 39, was arrested for repeatedly aiming a “high powered” laser pointer at two passenger planes landing at Christchurch Airport. In one case, a Virgin Airlines aircraft with 121 passengers was illuminated for about 20 seconds while at 20,000 feet altitude, then was illuminated an additional three times while on final landing approach. The pilots were dazzled but did not report more serious eye effects. He also aimed at the airport control tower.

Hemopo admitted aiming at the aircraft, but not at the cockpit. He further said he was unaware the laser light could be dangerous.

In August 2016 Hemopo pleaded guilty to charges of “causing unnecessary danger.” This has a fine of up to NZD $10,000 and one year in prison.

The Crown dropped charges of “reckless disregard for the safety of others,” which has a maximum penalty of 14 years.

On September 28 2016, Hemopo failed to appear for sentencing. The judge issued an arrest warrant for Hemopo.

On December 1 2016, Hemopo was sentenced to 10 weeks in jail.

From Stuff.co.nz and the New Zealand Herald.

US: 15 months in prison for California man who aimed a laser at a sheriff's helicopter

Mario Deleon Lopez, 35
Santa Ana, California, US


Lopez was sentenced August 23 2016 to 15 months in federal prison for intentionally aiming a laser pointer at an Orange County Sheriff’s Department helicopter.

On November 14, 2015, the OCSD helicopter was responding to a traffic accident, looking for any victims who may have been thrown from an overturned vehicle. The helicopter was illuminated multiple times by green laser light. The tactical flight officer called the multiple strikes “relentless.”

The helicopter crew was able to direct police on the ground to the backyard of a residence. Lopez was arrested on state charges of pointing a laser at an aircraft. After an investigation conducted by the Orange County Sheriff’s Department, the Santa Ana Police Department and the FBI, Lopez was indicted on federal charges which culminated in his August 2016 prison sentence.

US: Two years in prison for Ohio man who violated probation on laser pointer charge

Travis D. Krzysztofiak, 37
Boardman, Ohio, US


Travis Krzysztofiak laser

On June 15 2013, Krzysztofiak aimed a laser pointer at a medical helicopter coming to land at Akron Children’s Hospital in Boardman, Ohio. In January 2014, he pleaded guilty to violating the 2012 federal law making it illegal to aim a laser pointer at an aircraft, or the flight path of an aircraft.

In May 2014 Krzysztofiak was sentenced to three years probation, nine months home monitoring, and 200 hours of community service. He also was required to submit to regular drug and alcohol testing, and to be in a detoxification program. (He had previous court records for drug and probation violations in 2005 and 2010.)

However, on August 24 2016, Krzysztofiak was sentenced to two years in federal prison for violating his probation. The nature of the violation was not listed in court records.

Ireland: Six months in jail for shining a laser pen at a police helicopter

Alan Armstrong, 35
Greenisland, County Antrim, Northern Ireland


On September 19 2015, Armstrong repeatedly aimed a green laser at a Police Service of Northern Ireland helicopter. At trial, he said he was annoyed by the aircraft flying over his house. The laser was aimed at least five times, one of which lasted about 30 seconds continuously on the helicopter.

The judge said Armstrong’s actions could have resulted in a crash, and thus warranted a prison sentence. He was sentenced around April 20 2016.

From the Belfast Telegraph

US: Thirteen months in prison for aiming a laser at a police helicopter

Orlando Jose Chapa, 37
Dallas, Texas, US


Orlando Jose Chapa laser

On May 30 2015, Chapa was in his driveway when he aimed a laser pointer at a Texas Department of Public Safety helicopter. He was arrested on September 23, and pleaded guilty on November 3. Chapa was sentenced to 13 months in federal prison on February 18 2016.

US: 5 years probation, 200 hours service for twice aiming a laser at a student helicopter pilot

Christopher Lee Funk, 35
Concord, North Carolina, US


Christopher Funk laser

On May 6, 2014, Christopher Funk aimed a laser pointer at a helicopter containing a student pilot and instructor. The aircraft was targeted as it practiced landing at the Cape Fear (N.C.) Regional Jetport near Oak Island. The helicopter moved to the far end of the runway for another practice landing but was again targeted. Funk was located by police; he told them he was drunk and did not remember much of the incident.

On May 11 2015, Funk pleaded guilty. He was sentenced in federal court on November 4 2015 to five years probation and 200 hours of community service.

US: 37 months for aiming a laser at two news helicopters while stopped in traffic

Damien Wade Conley, 33
Chesnee, South Carolina, US


Conley was sentenced to 37 months in federal prison on November 4 2014. On November 20 2013, he pointed a laser at two news helicopters that were covering an accident; Conley was stuck in traffic at the time.

UK: £415 in fines for London-area man who lased police helicopter

Arkadiusz Wozniewski, 32
New Malden, London, UK


Wozniewski was sentenced October 14 2014 for aiming a laser pen at a London Metropolitan Police helicopter. He was fined £300, plus he had to pay a victim surcharge of £30 and court costs of £85 (total £415 or U.S. $666).

On July 19 2014, helicopter “India 99” was trying to locate 10 people walking across rooftops. Wozniewski aimed a laser pen at the aircraft. This caused the search to be called off.

Wozniewski pleaded guilty in Wimbledon Magistrates Court on October 8 2014.

US: Two years for two-time laser offender in Las Vegas area

James David Zipf, 30
Henderson, Nevada, US


Zipf was sentenced to two years in prison on September 23 2014, for lasing police helicopters. He was also ordered to undergo mental health and substance abuse treatment.

On January 30 2014, Zipf aimed a blue laser four times at a Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department helicopter, from the second story window of his house. On February 3 2014 he twice aimed the laser at a LVMPD helicopter. In June 2014, Zipf pleaded guilty to one count of aiming a laser pointer at an aircraft. He was sentenced under the February 2012 U.S. federal law making it illegal to point a laser at an aircraft, or the flight path of an aircraft.

Zipf has been convicted in 2011 in Phoenix of pointing a blue laser at a police helicopter. It is not known what fine or sentence, if any, came out of the 2011 conviction.

US: 2 years probation, 2 months home confinement, 40 hours community service

Michael Brandon Smith, 35
St. Louis area, Missouri, US

On April 11 2013, Smith was sentenced to two years of probation, two months of home confinement and 40 hours of community service for the May 18 2012 lasing of a police helicopter.

US: 3 months jail, 7 months home supervision, 3 years probation

Daniel Dangler, 30
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, US

On April 10 2013, Dangler was
sentenced to three months in jail plus seven months home confinement and three years supervised release, for aiming a green laser at a news media helicopter on July 18 2012. He pleaded guilty on October 17 2012. Dangler still faces FAA civil charges that could result in a penalty up to $11,000.

US: 2 years probation

David Banach, 38
Parsippany, New Jersey, US

david-banach-laser

On December 31 2004, Banach aimed a laser pointer at a police helicopter searching for the source of a laser that illuminated a charter jet two nights earlier. Banach was charged with terrorism under the Patriot Act in a high-profile case attracting media attention worldwide. He faced 25 years in prison and a $500,000 fine.

Under a plea bargain, Banach pleaded guilty to shining a laser beam at an airplane (another source says the charge was interfering with the operator of a mass transit vehicle). Charges of lying to the FBI were dropped. On February 15 2008 he was sentenced to two years probation with no fines or other penalties. His lawyer also says the judge restored Banach’s reputation. The New York Times reported that Banach had received threatening letters and had lost two jobs.

US: 37 months in prison, 3 years probation

Baltazar O. Valladares, 30
Roseville, California, US



On March 16 2009, Valladares aimed a green laser at a sheriff's helicopter searching for the person who earlier illuminated a commercial airplane. Valladares pleaded guilty in June 2009 to interfering with the safe operation of the helicopter, but denied illuminating the airplane. He was sentenced to 37 months in prison, plus three years of probation, in October 2009.

US: 30 months in prison

Dana Christian Welch, 37
Orange, California, US



On May 21 2008, Welch aimed a laser at two commercial jets landing at John Wayne Airport. He was found guilty in April 2009 of interfering with pilots. Welch was sentenced November 2 2009.

US: 4 years in prison

Jamie Allen Downie, 35
Rocklin, California, US



In July 2009, Downie aimed a laser at a sheriff's helicopter. He pleaded guilty to two felony counts of discharging a laser at an aircraft. Downie was sentenced January 22 2010.

US: 2 years in prison, $500 in court costs

Clint Jason Brenner, 36
Prescott, Arizona, US

Pasted Graphic

On December 9 2009, Brenner illuminated an Arizona police helicopter with a green laser pointer. He was found guilty of two counts of endangerment in April 2010. Brenner was sentenced on May 24 2010 to two years on each count, with the terms to run concurrently. He was also ordered to pay $500 in court costs.

Canada: CDN $500 fine, forfeiture of laser

Alvin Bautista, 38
Edmonton, Alberta, Canada

On August 19 2009, Bautista aimed a laser through a tree; it illuminated a police helicopter 2.5 miles away. One count of behavior that endangers an aircraft was dismissed (the maximum penalty was 5 years in prison and a $100,000 fine). Bautista was found guilty on June 23 2010 of projecting a bright light source to create a hazard to aviation safety. The judge said the February 18 2011 sentence was for "general deterrence … to make the public aware of the potential consequences of a laser on aircrafts."

US: 1 year probation, 140 hours of community service, cannot possess a laser pointer

Michael Anthony Fowler, 34
Silver Springs Shores, Marion County, Florida, US

Michael Anthony Fowler

On December 2 2010, Fowler aimed a blue laser pointer at a sheriff's helicopter. He said "I didn't even think the laser pointer could reach that far." Under a plea bargain, on March 10 2011 Fowler admitted a third-degree felony of pointing a laser light at a driver or pilot. He could have received up to five years in prison.

Australia: AUS $1000 fine for laser pointing; $300 for drug possession

Morgan Daniel Raine, 35
New Farm (Brisbane), Queensland, Australia



On May 20 2011, Raine aimed a laser pointer at Channel 9's helicopter. He was convicted June 29 2011 of endangering the safe use of a vehicle. Raine said the lasing was stupid and he meant no harm.

US: 6 months in jail, 100 hours of community service

Kevin Wayne Foster, 39
Shasta Lake, California, US



In December 2010, Foster aimed a laser at a California Highway Patrol helicopter. Under a plea bargain, two felony charges were dropped (assault with force likely to cause great bodily injury, and discharging a laser). He could have faced four years in prison if convicted on the felonies.

Foster pleaded no contest to misdemeanors of interfering with an aircraft, and pointing a laser at a peace officer. He was sentenced June 20 2011 to time served (about 6 months) and was ordered to 100 hours of community service giving presentations on the dangers of laser pointers.

Canada: CDN $5,000 fine

Chris Saulnier, 39
Calgary, Alberta, Canada

On January 5 2011, Saulnier aimed a green laser pointer at three aircraft. He was tracked by a police helicopter and arrested. Saulnier pleaded guilty on July 26 2011 to an unknown charge.

US: 6 months home confinement, 5 years probation, 500 hours community service

Joseph Aquino, 32
Warwick, Rhode Island, US

On September 15 2010, Aquino aimed a green laser at a boat, car, and commercial airliner. Prosecutors asked for two years in prison. He was sentenced September 12 2011. In addition to the above penalties, Aquino must undergo mental health counseling and submit to 72 drug tests each year.

US: Time served (7 months in jail) plus 1 year probation

Jeffrey Lee Gentry, 33
Bakersfield, California US
On November 6 2010, Gentry was arrested for aiming a laser four times at a Kern County Sheriff's Office helicopter. The pilot suffered temporary spots in his eyes, and was disoriented enough that the aircraft went off course. On January 9 2012, Gentry was sentenced to time served (he had been in jail seven months) and one year of probation.

Canada: House arrest, curfew, probation, cannot possess a laser pointer

Jason John McConnell, 35
Calgary, Alberta
On August 16 2010, McConnell aimed a laser into the cockpit of a police helicopter. The crew broke off their mission to deal with the laser. They located McConnell and ground crews arrested him. On June 18 2012, McConnell was sentenced to two months of house arrest, four months with a 10 pm to 5 am curfew, six months of probation, 25 hours of community service, and counseling. In addition, he is not permitted to possess a laser pointer.

Australia: AUS $20,000 fine for couple; possible loss of visa

Patricia Giguere, 29, and Clemens Trauttmansdorff, 31
Port Kennedy, Perth, Western Australia

Patricia Giguere laser

On October 25 2012, Giguere and Trauttmansdorff were each fined AUS $10,000 for lasing a police helicopter on July 20 2012. In addition, the conviction jeopardizes the ability of Giguere, a Canadian citizen, to stay in Australia on a partner provisional visa. Guigere (pictured above demonstrating how she aimed the laser) said in an interview that the fine would adversely affect her plans to start a business and buy land for a home.