A comprehensive resource for safe and responsible laser use
US: 8 months for aiming at sheriff's helicopter
Pinson, Alabama, US
On April 11 2020, a Jefferson County Sheriff's Office helicopter was working on a mission to recover stolen weapons when it was illuminated by a laser "numerous" times. The laser strikes happened while flying below an approach path for the Birmingham-Shuttlesworth International Airport. Information from the crew eventually led to Gabriel Lopez Mathews.
He was indicted on January 26 2021, pleaded guilty in April 2021 and was sentenced on September 15 2021 to eight months in prison.
From CBS42 and ABC3340 News
Australia: 15-month suspended sentence for drunk man who aimed blue laser at police helicopter
Woodcroft, South Australia
A South Australia Police helicopter checking on COVID compliance during a three-day lockdown was hit seven times by a blue laser on November 20, 2020. There was no injury to the crew but one officer was dazzled temporarily by the beam.
Two frames from the South Australia Police helicopter. In the first frame the laser beam is aimed to the left of the camera. In the second frame the beam is aimed directly at the camera lens. The human eye would have a similar effect, first seeing the beam then being dazzled and flashblinded by the bright direct light.
The perpetrator was found to be Mark Andrew Golka, 49, who lived in the Adelaide suburb of Woodcroft. He was said to have been drinking alcohol and taking prescription pain medication when he aimed the laser. At sentencing, the judge told Golka "…that is no excuse to having committed these offences."
Golka was sentenced to 15 months in prison, suspended. He signed a two-year good behavior bond, will be supervised for 18 months, and will perform 80 hours of community service.
After the sentencing, his lawyer said Golka was sorry for what he had done.
From ABC News. The page includes a video of the laser illumination, from which the two frames above were taken.
US: Year probation, $8,000 fine for "bored" Milwaukee man
Milwaukee, Wisconsin, US
Laser strikes occurred seven times between May 31 and June 7 2021 in the summer of 2020 during protests in Milwaukee. An FBI surveillance airplane and a Wisconsin National Guard helicopter were targeted. The FBI crew began wearing anti-laser goggles to protect against bright laser light. A camera on board their aircraft was used to determine the laser's location.
Ground officers then went in and arrested 39-year-old Jeremiah Belen, a resident of Milwaukee.
Belen apologized to the judge during his sentencing. He said he had the laser for astronomy pointing with his two children. Belen said he aimed at the aircraft because he was bored after being laid off during the COVID pandemic.
Prosecutors said they wanted the felony conviction to "send a message" that aiming at aircraft, especially during civil unrest, is dangerous.
Belen could have received up to five years in prison for his action, but was given probation due to no previous criminal history and having found a job since his arrest.
From 715 Newsroom, and the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel via MSN
US: 18 months for aiming at commercial aircraft
Rincon, Georgia, US
Hendricks aimed a green laser at commercial aircraft landing at the Savannah-Hilton Head International Airport in Georgia, between November 27 2019 and January 14 2020. One of the pilots helped pinpoint the origin of the laser strikes.
Hendricks was indicted on November 10 2020. He pleaded guilty to aiming a laser pointer at an aircraft. He was sentenced August 24 2021 to 18 months in prison, plus three years of supervised release after completion of his prison term.
For more information, see this LaserPointerSafety.com story
US: 2 years probation for Louisville KY man aiming at police helicopter during protests
Louisville, Kentucky, US
From a June 1 2021 news release from the U.S. Attorney's Office for the Western District of Kentucky:
A Louisville man was sentenced last week to 2 years of probation, including 8 months of home incarceration, for aiming a laser pointer at a Louisville Metro Police helicopter.
According to court documents, Manuel Martin Salazar-Leija, Jr., 26, of Louisville, aimed the beam of a laser pointer at an LMPD helicopter on September 25, 2020, during protests in the city. Lasers can blind pilots and cause the aircraft to crash, and aiming a laser at an aircraft is a federal felony offense.
In addition to 2 years of probation and 8 months of home incarceration, United States District Court Judge David Hale ordered Salazar-Leija, Jr., to pay a $2,500 fine and the costs of his home incarceration.
The Federal Bureau of Investigation investigated the case, and Assistant U.S. Attorney David Weiser prosecuted the case.
US: 12 months probation for Virginia woman aiming at police aircraft during protest
Richmond, Virginia, US
On June 4 2020, a green laser beam was aimed at a police aircraft that was monitoring civil unrest at the [Robert E.] Lee Monument, a 21-foot tall statue of the Confederate general sitting on a 40-foot pedestal. The air crew directed officers on the ground. They found and arrested 33-year-old Amanda Robinson.
In November 2020 she pleaded guilty. Under federal sentencing guidelines, the mother of 4, who had no previous criminal record, could have been jailed for up to 6 months. Both her lawyer and the U.S. Attorney's Office for the Eastern District of Virginia asked for no jail time, because Robinson did not know that shining a laser at aircraft was hazardous, and because she cooperated with prosecutors.
On March 23 2021 Robinson was sentenced to 12 months probation.
From the Richmond Times-Dispatch
UK: 12 months for aiming at police helicopter (4 months suspended)
Burringham, North Lincolnshire, UK
Cheeseman was convicted after a "sustained laser attack" on a National Air Police Helicopter flying over Scunthorpe, North Lincolnshire on April 11 2020.
The helicopter crew directed Humberside Police to a location where Cheeseman was arrested. He pleaded not guilty in December 2020. In early March 2021, Cheeseman was given a 12 month sentence, suspended four months. He was convicted of shining a laser beam towards a person providing air services, causing the laser beam to dazzle or distract that person.
From GrimsbyLive. Although the story says the sentence was 12 months with four months suspended, the headline states "Man avoids prison…" The apparent discrepancy may be due to factors of British law or judicial terms.
UK: 6 months for aiming laser at police helicopter; perpetrator called "idiot" and "liar" by judge
Keighley, West Yorkshire
On February 26 2021, Fort was sentenced to six months in jail, after he repeatedly aimed a laser at a police helicopter.
On August 17 2020, the aircraft was searching for a missing person in Keighley when it was illuminated by laser light multiple times. There was no apparent ill effect on the pilot other than closing his eyes as a reflex. The crew located the source and passed the information to ground officers.
When Fort was arrested, he first said he had been using the laser to look for rabbits, then said he aimed the laser at a "UFO". Fort said the laser pen was inexpensive so he did not think it would get near the helicopter.
At trial, the judge said both explanations were lies: "…the reality is there was no, and never could be, any justification for what you did."
During the trial, Fort's past issues with alcohol, severe depression, and paranoia were raised. For example, at the first sentencing hearing in January 2021, Fort arrived drunk. Three officers took him to a holding cell to sleep off his inebriation. Sentencing was re-scheduled for February 26.
On that date, the judge said he wanted Fort to spend years in prison because he was an "idiot" for aiming at the helicopter. He did not think such a long sentence would be sustained at appeal, so he handed down a sentence of six months.
From BBC News and the Telegraph & Argus
US: Three months probation for aiming laser at SkyWest flight
Missoula, Montana, US
On March 3 2020, a SkyWest flight on decent to the Great Falls, Montana airport was illuminated by a bright green laser that lit up the cockpit.
Sheriff's deputies located a Jeep in which Loven was a passenger. A laser pointer was in a cup holder.
Loven admitted aiming the laser at an aircraft. He said he wanted to "test out the distance of the laser". He also said he did not know it was illegal to aim a laser at an aircraft.
On October 28, 2020, he pleaded guilty to aiming a laser pointer at an aircraft.
On February 25 2021, Loven was sentenced to three years probation. U.S. federal prosecutors had requested a sentence of 15 to 21 months in prison. Contrary to some news reports, the only punishment was probation.
More on the incident here.
Wales: 30 weeks for Swansea man who aimed laser at police helicopter
A 29-year-old man was sentenced on January 6 2021 to 30 weeks in prison for aiming a £9 laser pen at a police helicopter searching for a missing teenager in Swansea, Wales.
On September 2 2020, a National Police Air Service helicopter with a crew of three was searching for a missing female teen at about 2:40 am when it was hit by five or six "bright green, sharp lights" lasting 5-10 second each. The pilot was momentarily blinded and was disoriented; another crew member was dazzled. The crew abandoned the search due to the pilot's loss of vision.
Ground officers went to a location pinpointed by the helicopter's thermal imaging camera. They smelled marijuana and found William Andrew David James Fellowes with a laser pen. He later told police he had been pointing at stars and the pilot got in his way. He said he did not know the sky light was a helicopter and thought it was a bird, a satellite or a hot air balloon.
Fellowes pleaded guilty to directing a laser beam towards a moving police helicopter in violation of the Laser Misuse (Vehicles) Act of 2018.
More information at this LaserPointerSafety.com article