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US: New Maryland law criminalizes aiming laser pointers at aircraft

Maryland’s governor signed on May 2 2013 a new state law making it a misdemeanor to knowingly and willfully shine, point, or focus the beam of a laser pointer on an individual operating an aircraft. The penalty is up to three years in prison and/or a $2,500 fine. The previous penalty was a $500 fine.
The bill does have some exemptions: “The prohibition does not apply to the use of a laser pointer by (1) an individual conducting research and development or flight testing for an aircraft manufacturer or the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA); (2) a member of the U.S. Department of Defense or the U.S. Department of Homeland Security acting in an official capacity during an activity related to research and development, flight testing, or training; (3) a law enforcement officer acting in an official capacity; (4) an individual attempting to make the individual’s location known; or (5) an individual attempting to give a warning signal.”

The act takes effect October 1 2013.

The Prince George’s County Police Department says that two of its officers were “instrumental” in helping pass the bill. Pilots Todd Dolihite and Christopher Elrod testified that they “suffered serious injuries to their eyes on January 8 2013, after they were blinded by a commercial grade laser.” The person convicted spent 20 days in a detention center.

From Hyattsville Patch, WJLA, Senate Bill 19 Legislative History. A November 2012 story about the bill’s introduction, summarized by LaserPointerSafety.com, is here.