A comprehensive resource for safe and responsible laser use
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.
Tseung Kwan O, Hong Kong
On January 1 2020, Kwok aimed laser beams at police vehicles and officers at a Hong Kong police station near his home.
The incident did not appear to be connected to protests against police which occurred in Hong Kong during 2019. Kwok Fu-wah was said to have aimed the lasers "out of impulse". The incident interfered with police duties but there were no injuries reported.
He was originally charged with possessing offensive weapons in a public place which is punishable by imprisonment. However, prosecutors allowed him to plead guilty to "a diminished charge of similar nature" resulting in a lesser sentence on July 23 2020 of 100 hours of community service. The principal magistrate noted Kwok had a good background and was sorry for his actions.
More on the case and the lasers involved here.
Columbus, Ohio, US
On July 19 2018, Robinson aimed a green laser pointer at a police helicopter, then at a Southwest Airlines Boeing 737 carrying 61 passengers. He also aimed at police helicopters sent to check the reports of laser illumination. He was charged with four counts of interfering with the operation of an aircraft.
On May 1 2019, Robinson pleaded guilty to one charge of interfering with the Southwest flight, a felony. He was sentenced to 30 days in jail, one year of probation, and community service by appearing in a public service announcement about the danger to passengers and penalties for persons aiming lasers at aircraft.
Robinson said it was “a boneheaded mistake ... I didn’t know how far it would go, didn’t even think it would go as far as it did ... I wasn’t trying to hurt anybody.”
US: 104 hours community service, 3 years probation for Oklahoma City man who aimed laser at police helicopter
Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, US
On July 29 2017, a commercial airplane landing at Will Rogers World Airport reported being illuminated by green laser light. A police helicopter sent to the area was also illuminated by the laser.
Jones was located and arrested. He pleaded guilty in December 2017 to aiming a laser pointer at an aircraft.
During sentencing on May 22 2018, Jones said “I’m sorry to my family and anyone I harmed in this. I’ve learned that my actions have repercussions.” According to Jones’ defense lawyer, heroin use was a factor in the laser incident. Jones said he is now sober, has made life changes and the experience has been “eye opening.”
Jones was sentenced to 104 hours of community service, and must pay restitution of about $500 to the Oklahoma City Police Department. He was given three years probation.
Both the prosecutors and defense attorney sought probation for Jones as this was his first offense. Prosecutors said “The circumstances did not suggest that pilots or passengers of the aircraft were in immediate peril.”
Separately, the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration is seeking a civil penalty of $17,500.
Pottsville, Pennsylvania, US
Ebert was sentenced March 15 2018 to 1-1/2 to 3 years in state prison for aiming a laser at a medical helicopter. In addition to serving prison time, Ebert must pay costs, $1300 in fines, $500 to the Substance Abuse Education Fund, perform 10 hours of community service and submit a DNA sample to authorities.
On August 15, 2017, the Lehigh Valley Health Network MedEvac 7 was preparing to land when it was illuminated by a green laser beam. There was no injury to the crew. Ebert was arrested and charged with risking a catastrophe, possessing an instrument of crime, and three counts of recklessly endangering another person. He pleaded guilty to the laser-related charges.
In addition, he also pleaded guilty to charges in five other cases including: driving under the influence, fleeing or eluding police, driving under suspension, driving an unregistered vehicle, driving the wrong way, possession of a prohibited offensive weapon, possession of a small amount of marijuana, two counts each of delivery of a controlled substance and possession of drug paraphernalia, and three counts of possession with intent to deliver a controlled substance.
From the Republican Herald
Fontana, California, US
On February 21 2015. Asarel Felix Lombera used a $20 green laser pointer to track an Ontario, California police helicopter for about 15 seconds. The light entered the cockpit and momentarily dazed a crew member.
In February 2017 Lombera pleaded guilty. In his plea agreement, he said he was aware that what he did was dangerous and distracting. At sentencing in May, Lombera received a probationary sentence of community service and was ordered to pay a $1,000 fine.
From The Daily Bulletin
Freeland, Washington state, US
On December 27 2016 the U.S. Coast Guard assessed a civil penalty of $9,500 against Raden for “interfering with the safe operation of a vessel” by aiming a blue laser at a Washington state ferry on October 22 2015. One of the ferry’s officers was said to have burns on his eyelid.
Raden also pleaded guilty to reckless endangerment in Island County Superior Court. He was ordered to serve 15 days in jail, perform 240 hours of community service, pay $3,740.89 in restitution to the master and chief mate, and serve 24 months probation.
On April 26 2016, the Coast Guard issued a civil penalty of $100,000 against Raden. According to a Coast Guard press release at the time, “Coast Guard officials are seeking civil penalties for violation of a safety and security zone as well as interference with the safe operation of the Tokitae [ferry] while it transited between Mukilteo and Clinton [in Washington state]. The final civil penalty amount [which turned out to be $9,500] will be determined by a Coast Guard Hearing Officer in Arlington, Va.”
A Coast Guard spokesperson told Cyrus Farivar of Ars Technica "Originally there were multiple charges that brought the maximum amount to $100,000 [as] referenced in the original [press] release. Ultimately the hearing officer has the final say and chose to only pursue the one charge for 'interfering with the safe operation of a vessel' and assessed a fine of $9,500."
Raden has previously been in trouble for misusing a laser. In July 2015, Raden and his friend Dillon Reisman, 27, were aiming a laser into house windows in Langley, Washington, in order to “cause alarm to anyone trying to sleep.” When confronted by police, Raden repeatedly aimed the laser beam into an officer’s face. Felony charges were not filed until November 18 2015.
In yet another incident, police said Raden was accused of using a laser and acid as weapons.
From the Chronicle, the San Juan Islander and Ars Technica. The original LaserPointerSafety.com story about the incident is here; an updated story with news about Raden’s arrest and the Coast Guard penalty is here. Additional details of Raden’s previous run-ins over misusing lasers can be found in an April 11 2016 HeraldNet story.
Boardman, Ohio, US
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.
McClure was sentenced in mid-July 2016 to 240 hours of community service for illegally importing 300 over-powered lasers. One of the lasers was sold for £6 (USD $9) at a school Christmas fair and subsequently caused an eye injury to a seven-year-old boy.
Lynsey McClure had imported the lasers from a Chinese supplier who said they complied with U.K. regulations limiting laser pens to 1 milliwatt of power. Her brother, who was not charged, sold them in a stall during a school fair in December 2015. The headmaster asked her brother to stop selling the laser, but he continued.
Jonathan Marshall, 7, purchased one of the lasers. It was later found to have an output of 127 milliwatts.
His mother said Jonathan was playing with it at home when the beam went into his eye for “a fraction of a second.” He has a retinal burn which interferes with his vision.
McClure pleaded guilty to nine product safety and consumer protection violations, including selling an unsafe product and failing to disclose the power of the laser.
The case appears to be the first where a person has been prosecuted for an illegal laser sale that led to an injury.
From the Sunday Times (subscription required to read the entire article) and the JC.com
Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada
Sharma was given a one year conditional discharge sentence, plus 30 hours of community service, on December 21 2015 for aiming a laser pointer at a Winnipeg city police helicopter in June 2015. The aircrew was temporarily distracted and disoriented.
Sharma’s lawyer said the teen “was goofing around to see how high [the laser] could project into the sky”, and did not intend to create a hazard.
Oakland, California, US
On June 7 2014, Palomino aimed a laser at a California Highway Patrol helicopter that had to break off a search to deal with the laser. According to the Contra Costa Times, Palomino was taking a selfie video during the incident: “In the video, Palomino yelled at the helicopter pilot, ‘Look at this laser!’ A woman can be heard in the background saying, ‘Don't do that! You know you could blind ... You('re) going to go to jail if you do that. Don't do that!’”
He was indicted August 28 2014, and later pleaded guilty to the crime.
On December 2 2015 Palomino was sentenced to five years probation, including six months of community confinement in a halfway house, 200 hours of community service, and not owning a laser pointer. He also will be required to educate people about the consequences of aiming laser pointers at aircraft.
Concord, North Carolina, US
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: $235 fine, 80 hours service for aiming laser at NFL Buffalo Bills player during Detroit Lions game
West Bloomfield, Michigan, US
During a National Football League game on October 5 2014, Beslach aimed a laser pointer at Buffalo Bills quarterback Kyle Orton and kicker Dan Carpenter. Beslach was trying to distract the Bills players in their game against Beslach’s favored team, the Detroit Lions. The players were not injured and play did not seem to be affected.
Beslach was identified when he boasted about his laser use on Twitter.
On October 9 2014, the Detroit Lions banned Beslach from all future events at Ford Field. The season-ticket holder who accompanied Beslach — perhaps his father — had his tickets pulled for the remainder of the season.
In November 2014, Beslach pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor charge of disorderly conduct. He was fined $235, had to do 80 hours of community service, and was given a one-year suspended sentence. He will have his case reviewed November 23 2015.
Hubbard, Ohio, US
Vecchiarelli was sentenced on October 2 2014 to probation for five years, has to do 200 hours of community service, must write an apology to his victims, has to pay a $1,000 fine, has an 11 pm curfew, and must stay out of liquor establishments. If he violates his probation, he could go to prison for eight years.
Vecchiarelli was arrested for aiming a laser at a news helicopter that was filming an October 11 2013 football game at Hubbard (Ohio) High School. The cameraman told police the laser light entered his eyes. He was able to direct police to the laser location, about 1 mile southeast of the stadium.
Farnworth, Bolton, Greater Manchester, UK
Hunt was sentenced September 10 2014. He was given a community order for 12 months, a supervision order, was fined £20, was ordered to pay a £60 victim surcharge, and he had his laser pen and cannabis forfeited.
On May 23 2014, he aimed a laser pen from his bedroom window at a police helicopter. The laser strike caused the helicopter to abandon a search for a missing person, in order to determine Hunt’s location. In August, Hunt pleaded guilty to acting in a manner likely to endanger an aircraft, and to possession of cannabis.
Wellington (Palm Beach area), Florida, US
Fischer was sentenced July 29 2014 to two years probation and 50 hours of community service, for the December 30, 2012 lasing of a commercial jet and the sheriff’s helicopter that was sent to investigate. After his sentence, he told LaserPointerSafety that aiming at the aircraft was “the worst mistake of my life. Now I am a convicted felon.” His warning for others was “Don’t think you’re not going to get caught, because if you do it you’re going to get caught.”
Scotland: 240 hours of community service for ADHD man who lased police helicopter, 8 weeks before copter crashed into pub
Jones was sentenced to 240 hours of community service on June 2 2014, for aiming a green laser beam at a Police Scotland helicopter.
The incident occurred on October 1 2013. The helicopter pilot turned the craft away from the beam, to avoid the light. Other crew used infrared cameras to track the perpetrator and direct ground officers to his location. The officers found a laser pen in the possession of Grant Jones, 24, and arrested him.
Jones avoided jail time “because his actions were linked to his Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder”, according to an Edinburgh Evening Times news story.
The same helicopter crashed into a pub in Glasgow on November 29 2013, killing all three on board plus seven persons on the ground. There is no linkage between Jones’ laser illumination and the crash 60 days later, which was caused by both engines flaming out.
Auckland, New Zealand
On May 30 2014, Larsen was sentenced to alcohol treatment, 100 hours of community service, and 12 months probation after being convicted of endangering transport. On December 1 2013, the pilot of the Eagle police helicopter was momentarily blinded and, a day later, had a headache after being exposed to blue light from Larsen’s laser. At sentencing, the judge called Larsen’s actions a “drunken escapade.” Larsen said he regretted his actions: “We all make mistakes, and this was mine to make.”
On March 19 2014, Hoskins was sentenced to five months in jail, suspended for two years, plus he must do 200 hours of community service within 12 months. On January 20 2014, Hoskins aimed a laser pen at a National Police Air Service helicopter, to see if the beam could reach the aircraft. He said the lasing was “stupid” and was not done deliberately.
Luton, Bedfordshire, UK
On May 20 2013, McIvor, a Police Community Service Officer (PCSO) with British Transport Police, aimed a green laser pen at a police helicopter. This dazzled the crew and forced the pilot to take evasive action. McIvor later told officers he had been trying to attract his elderly cat who was on top of his garage. He was convicted in December 2013 of acting in a negligent manner to endanger the safety of an aircraft. He was acquitted of a more serious charge of recklessly endangering the safety of an aircraft. On February 4 2014, McIvor was sentenced in Luton Crown Court to two years community service and was ordered to pay £3,500 in costs.
Wales: Suspended 5-month sentence, 200 hours community service, £165 fine for lasing helicopter 10 times
Greenfield, Flintshire, Wales, UK
On September 25 2013, Griffiths repeatedly aimed a green laser at a North Wales Police helicopter that was trying to locate a missing person. He hit the aircraft about 10 times over an eight-minute period. At trial Griffiths admitted a charge of recklessly endangering an aircraft or persons inside. On January 9, 2014 he was given a five-month prison sentence suspended for 12 months, ordered to do 200 hours of unpaid work, and was fined £165 in costs.
US: Jail, probation, community service for "bored" Kentucky man who aimed gunsight at police helicopter
Lexington, Kentucky, US
On September 4 2013, French pleaded guilty in state court to second-degree wanton endangerment. He was sentenced to 12 months in jail; 30 days will be served while the remaining 11 months will be probated for two years. He is also required to complete 100 hours of community service, and to forfeit his gun and laser. On August 24 2013, while working as a security guard, French aimed a green laser attached to his 9mm pistol at a police helicopter. He had told police he did this because he was bored and pointed the laser on his gun at the helicopter to test its range.
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.
On April 10 2013, Waistle was given a six-month suspended sentence and 150 hours of unpaid work, for aiming a laser pen at a Cleveland Police helicopter. Leaving the courtroom, Waistle put two fingers up (photo above) which the Daily Star wrote was “defiant”.
US: 1 year in jail and 2 years probation, partner gets 60 days community service and three years probation
Los Angeles, California, US
On July 4 2011, Atkins and Jiminez were arrested on multiple charges for lasing a LAPD helicopter. They also were suspected of previous incidents of aiming at airlines landing at Los Angeles International Airport. On November 1 2012, Atkins was sentenced to one year in county jail, two years probation, and $200 in fines and fees. Jiminez was sentenced in September 2012 to 60 days of Caltrans service and three years probation.
Sheffield, South Yorkshire, UK
In August 2012, Shackleton was sentenced to 200 hours of unpaid community service, and was ordered to pay £85 in court costs, for shining a laser at South Yorkshire’s police helicopter. Neil Shackleton aimed the laser from his bedroom window to the helicopter as it flew two miles away. On-board cameras helped determine the laser’s location, and ground units arrested Shackleton.
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.
Compton, California, US
On September 23 2011, Rogers was arrested for illuminating a Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department helicopter with a green laser. This came as the helicopter was searching for the source of a laser that illuminated a commercial airplane landing at Los Angeles International Airport.
According to a January 2014 article in Smithsonian Air & Space magazine, Rogers “pleaded no contest and was sentenced to five days in jail, three years probation, and 180 hours of community service.” The dates of the plea and the sentence are not known.
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.
Lynden, Washington, US
On September 22 2010, Groen aimed a spotlight (not a laser) at a U.S. Customs and Border Protection helicopter, at a time when local residents had been complaining about border agents' actions. On April 28 2011, a jury found Groen not guilty of interfering with the authorized operation of an aircraft. They found him guilty of incapacitation of an individual during authorized operation of an aircraft.
Groen was sentenced on August 4 2011 to two months in prison, 90 days of home detention, 120 hours of community service, three years of community supervision and a $5,000 fine.
Brookfield (Chicago area) Illinois, US
On June 16 2010 (and possibly as early as April 30), Heeringa aimed a green laser at a cargo plane. The pilot videotaped the incident and used Google Maps to tell police the location. Heeringa pleaded guilty in a plea bargain to misdemeanor counts of aggravated assault and battery and was sentenced July 12 2011.
In February 2010, a 21-year-old repeatedly aimed a laser at a police helicopter. He could have received 90 days in jail. Instead, he was convicted of "aviation sabotage" and received a suspended sentence with community service, in June 2011.
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.
Chicago, Illinois, US
On March 17 2011, Slater and another person aimed a laser at a commercial aircraft and then at a police helicopter. Slater pleaded guilty on April 1 2011 for the misdemeanor of unlawful use of a weapon.
Silver Springs Shores, Marion County, Florida, US
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.
Te Iro Bay, Marlborough Sounds, New Zealand
Long was arrested October 13 2007, for aiming a laser at Interisland ferries on September 22 and October 12. He pleaded guilty in June 2008, and was sentenced in May 2009 to 300 hours of community service.
Newport, South Wales, UK
In 2003, Pearse and a teen pointed laser beams at trains pulling into a station in south Wales. Two drivers had temporary blindness; one was treated for temporary injury to his tear duct. The cost of the disruptions was estimated at £13,000. Pearse and the teen pleaded guilty to two charges of endangering the safety of railway passengers. Pearse was sentenced on June 20 2003 to six months in a young offender's institute. The teen was given 140 hours community punishment.