A comprehensive resource for safe and responsible laser use
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
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: 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: 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
US: 51 months for Texas man for aiming at police helicopter
Schertz, Texas, US
On February 17 2019, Shorey knowingly aimed the beam of a laser pointer three times at a San Antonio Police Department helicopter. The light affected the pilot's ability to read his gauges. While the pilot landed safely, he was unable to fly for a week; news reports said he saw spots.
On November 20, 2019 Shorey pleaded guilty to aiming a laser pointer at an aircraft.
He was sentenced on November 9 2020 to 51 months — over four years — in federal prison. In addition, the judge imposed an additional three years supervision after Shorey's release.
Additional details here.
US: 15 months in prison for 45-year-old man who aimed laser pointer at an aircraft
Rockford, Illinois, US
Brenton Wells pleaded guilty on August 20, 2019 to knowingly aiming the beam of a laser pointer at an aircraft. He aimed at the aircraft "for a period of time" while standing in the backyard of a residence.
He was sentenced on December 20, 2019 to 15 months in federal prison.
From the Chicago Morning Star
US: $500 fine for fan who pointed laser at QB Tom Brady
Lee's Summit, Missouri, US
On January 20 2019 in Kansas City, National Football League quarterback Tom Brady was targeted by a green laser beam during an NFL playoff game between Brady's New England Patriots and the Kansas City Chiefs. The beam hit Brady at least three times during the game. It did not seem to be noticed by or to bother Brady, who went on to win the January 20 game as well as the NFL Super Bowl two weeks later.
On February 3 2019, Kansas City Chiefs officials said they had identified the person holding the laser, and had banned him for life from the Chief's stadium.
On April 11 2019, Dwyan Morgan was publicly named as the person who attacked Tom Brady with a laser. He was cited for a misdemeanor, one count of disturbing the peace. This carries a maximum penalty of up to a year in prison and a fine of up to $1,000.
Subsequent news stories indicated Morgan had no remorse, that he "still hates the Pats and Tom Brady…." In mid-May 2019 on the syndicated TV show Inside Edition, Morgan and his son appeared to be lighthearted about the incident. He said he did not intend to injure Brady; that he was intoxicated and wanted to distract the quarterback. He said "I shouldn't have done it" but also said he would not apologize to Brady or the Patriots football team.
On July 17 2019 Morgan pleaded guilty to disturbing the peace. He was fined $500. He was not given any jail time.
From a LaserPointerSafety.com story and update.
US: 21 months in jail for Florida man who aimed laser at police helicopter
Port Richey, Florida, US
On December 5 2017, a Pasco (Florida) County Sheriff's Office helicopter was illuminated about 10 times by laser light from the ground. The helicopter pilot landed in an empty parking lot, walked to the suspect's home, and detained Ryan Fluke.
Fluke told the pilot he aimed the laser for fun, and did not realize the laser beam could travel a long distance.
Fluke had 12 previous arrests in Pasco County. He was charged with misuse of laser lighting devices, a third degree felony.
He pleaded guilty November 20 2018 to aiming a laser at an aircraft and was sentenced to 21 months in federal prison, in March 2019.
US: 30 days in jail, one year probation for Ohio man who aimed at airplane, helicopter
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.
US: 1.5 to 3 years in state prison for Pennsylvania man
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
Wales: Six months for Cardiff man, for aiming laser at four aircraft
St Mellons, Cardiff, Wales, UK
On August 1 2015, a Ryanair pilot reported seeing a green beam on takeoff from Bristol Airport. Two other aircraft had their flight paths altered because of the laser illumination. A police helicopter sent to locate the laser source found it was coming from a top-floor flat in eastern Cardiff. Ground police were sent.
After three minutes of knocking, Chadwick opened the door. Police found parts of a laser pen, which when re-assembled, produced green light.
The helicopter pilot had laser light go into his eye, and “had to see an optician to find out if he was fit to fly again,” according to the prosecutor at Chadwick’s October 2015 trial.
Chadwick’s barrister said “It was a laser pen he had bought for £1 and he didn’t realize or appreciate the consequences of what he was doing. He is deeply apologetic and says he wants to write a letter of apology to each of the pilots. He would never have played with a laser in the way he did if he had known it was a criminal act.”
Chadwick pleaded guilty to four counts of recklessly acting in a manner likely to endanger aircraft (the three passenger planes and the police helicopter).
The trial judge rejected Chadwick’s plea for leniency due to his father being ill: “It was protracted behaviour, over a period of 20 minutes, and officers were directed to your home found you dismantling the pen. You say you are sorry, have entered an early guilty plea to reckless endangerment, and sadly your father is unwell. But such offences are becoming all too prevalent and it must be made absolutely plain to those who may buy these pens and behave in this way that custodial sentences are inevitable in order to deter others. In my view it is far too serious to be dealt with in any other way. The consequences to those travelling on those aircraft and to others on the ground could have been catastrophic.”
The judge sentenced Chadwick to six months in jail.
He was given an additional six months on an unrelated November 2014 charge of possessing cannabis with intent to supply, which had previously been suspended.
From the Guardian and Wales Online
US: Six months in prison for Texas man who aimed laser at Department of Public Safety helicopter
Johnson County, Texas, US
On July 22 2015, numerous aircraft including commercial and FedEx flights reported being illuminated by laser light. A Texas Department of Public Safety helicopter investigating the reports was also hit. Officers traced the beam to a home where Siferd was present.
He initially denied using a laser until officers told him they had video showing the beam coming from the house. Siferd then admitted he had aimed at the helicopter, but said he did not realize the beam could go all the way to the aircraft.
In March 2016 Siferd pleaded guilty to a felony indictment. In October 2016 he was sentenced to six months in a federal prison.
From the original LaserPointerSafety.com story, as updated October 15 2016.
US: Two years in prison for Ohio man who violated probation on laser pointer charge
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.
UK: 240 hours of community service for selling illegal laser pens
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
Scotland: One year in jail for aiming laser pen at police helicopter
Stevenston, North Ayrshire, Scotland
In September 2014, a Police Scotland helicopter was illuminated several times with green laser light while looking for a gunman. The pilot had to take evasive action. The beam was tracked to Ryan’s home. Ryan told officers, “I’m sorry, it was me.”
In December 2015, Ryan admitted “culpable and reckless conduct.” He was sentenced to one year in jail.
From the Scotsman and BBC News
UK: 20 weeks in prison for aiming a laser pen at a police helicopter
Edison Grove, Hull, UK
On January 9 2016, Houghton aimed a £9 (USD $13) laser pen at a Humberside Police helicopter. He later pleaded guilty. On February 18 2016, he was sentenced at Hull Magistrates Court to 20 weeks in prison.
US: Six months in prison, 3 years probation for aiming a laser at a police helicopter
Fresno, California, US
On March 15 2015, Quenga illuminated a Fresno Police Department helicopter with a green laser beam about six times over ten minutes. A patrol car sent to the location, to find the laser source, was broadsided by a civilian SUV. Both officers had serious injuries; the SUV occupants suffered minor injuries. When Quenga was found by other officers, he had been listening to police radios and knew they were looking for him.
In October 2015, Quenga pleaded guilty. On January 19 2016, Quenga was sentenced to six months in prison, and three years supervised release.
Quenga’s troubles may not be over. Ars Technica quoted prosecutor Karen Escobar as saying “We are still litigating the restitution portion of the case. In that regard, a hearing on restitution has been set for May 16. We are seeking the uninsured losses in connection with the accident of the first responders that Quenga was monitoring via his police radio scanner iPhone app."
US: Thirteen months in prison for aiming a laser at a police helicopter
Dallas, Texas, US
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
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: 6 months for targeting up to 25 aircraft in Portland
Portland, Oregon, US
Bukucs was sentenced to 6 months in federal prison on March 16 2015 for two felony counts of aiming a laser pointer at commercial jetliners as they approached Portland International Airport in October 2013.
On July 15, 2014, Bukucs pleaded guilty to aiming his green laser at United Airlines Flight 1406 and Jet Blue Flight 1205 as they flew over his apartment in Northeast Portland on October 13, 2013. His arrest occurred after intense air and ground surveillance by FBI agents and police officers. Investigators reported over 100 laser strikes from the vicinity of defendant’s apartment in 2013, the government stated to the court.
After his prison term, Bukucs must also serve three years of supervised release. From an FBI news release.
US: Two years probation, 50 hours community service for Florida man
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.
US: UPDATED: 14 -- no, 5 -- years for California man, due in part to past criminal record (overturned June 2015, upheld Nov. 2016)
Clovis, California, US
In the summer of 2012, Rodriguez and his then-girlfriend, Jennifer Lorraine Coleman, 23, were arrested for repeatedly aiming a green laser at a Fresno Police Department helicopter. It had been called out to investigate an earlier illumination of a children’s hospital medical helicopter. On December 20 2013, Rodriguez was found guilty of interfering with an aircraft (penalty up to 20 years in prison) and of aiming a laser pointer at an aircraft (penalty up to 5 years in prison). Coleman was also found guilty of aiming a laser pointer. On March 10 2014, Rodriguez was sentenced to 14 years in prison. On May 12 2014, Coleman was sentenced to two years in prison, to be followed by three years of supervised release.
As of March 2014, this is by far the longest sentence anywhere in the world for a laser/aircraft incident (see here for sentences of 37-48 months and here for sentences over 4 years). Rodriguez’s extensive past criminal record was a key factor helping to increase the length of the sentence; the judge called him a “walking crime spree.”
UPDATED June 24 2015: The 14-year sentence was overturned by a three-judge panel of the U.S. Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals.
The judges did uphold Rodriguez’s conviction for aiming a laser pointer at a helicopter, saying this conviction “is designed for knuckleheads like him.” This conviction carried a 5-year sentence.
But they overturned Rodriguez’s conviction — and his subsequent 14-year sentence — for willfully attempting to interfere with the safe operation of an aircraft in reckless disregard for human safety. The court noted that the second conviction "is designed for both the Osama bin Ladens of the world - people trying to bring down a plane, intending to cause harm - and those who are aware that their actions are dangerous and could harm others, but just don't care…. The failure to recognize this distinction is to fail to appreciate that Congress saw fit to create two different crimes, one more serious than the other, for two different types of offenders.”
Judge Barry Silverman, writing for the panel, said that Rodriguez's intentionally shining the laser at the helicopter "is not, in and of itself, sufficient to allow a rational factfinder to conclude that Rodriguez acted with a reckless disregard for the safety of human life.” Silverman also wrote that “….the evidence showed that he was attempting to see how far his laser would go at night – a stupid thing to do, yes, but there is no evidence that he was trying to interfere with the pilot.”
UPDATED November 4 2016: Rodriguez appealed the June 2015 5-year sentence. On October 17 2016, the U.S. Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals upheld the 5-year sentence. In an unpublished, unanimous opinion, a three-judge panel found the sentence was reasonable, even though advisory guidelines call for a sentence of only 21 to 27 months (1.75 to 2.25 years).
This was due to a number of factors: 1) “Rodriguez increased the dangerousness of the offense by striking the helicopter six or seven times,”, 2) minor children were involved, 3) he had a criminal history including gang involvement and 4) he was on probation when the laser illuminations occurred. From Ars Technica, Pasadena News Now and Courthouse News Service
UK: Police officer gets two years community service, £3,500 in costs
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.
US: 5 days in jail, 3 years probation, 180 hours community service
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.
US: Texas man gets 18 months in prison for aiming at Homeland Security helicopter
Donna, Texas, US
On September 25 2013, Magarito Tristan III was sentenced to 18 months in prison, plus an additional two years of supervised release following his term, for aiming a laser pointer at a Customs and Border Patrol helicopter. The 28-year-old from Donna, Texas, had previously pleaded guilty in July 2013 to one felony count of aiming a laser at an aircraft. He has been in custody since the March 7 2013 incident. The pilot wrote to the court that he felt he was under attack and that bullets would be fired at the aircraft.
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.
UK: £305 in fines for lasing police helicopter
Hebburn, Tyne and Wear, UK
Rayner and GIlbert were each fined £100 (USD $155), plus they had to pay court costs of £85 and a victim surcharge of £20. They pleaded guilty August 27 2013 to shining a light at an aircraft in flight so as to dazzle the pilot. On May 8 2013, the couple were in bed, aiming a laser pen at a nearby dog, when they then aimed it at a police helicopter searching for a missing 11-year-old boy. The pilot traced the beam back to a house in Hebburn where they were found in a back bedroom. They initially denied having a laser but then officers found it under the mattress. At trial, magistrates were told it was not an imprisonable offense, so the pair could only be fined or discharged. The Northumbria Police and Crime Commissioner said “This was extremely reckless behavior, which could have had horrific consequences…. This relatively small fine does mean offenders appear to have been let off somewhat lightly…”
US: 30 months in federal prison for lasing police helicopter
Dallas, Texas, US
On July 25 2013, Santodomingo was sentenced to 30 months in federal prison, for the January 28 2013 lasing of a helicopter. A green laser beam was aimed at Dallas Police Department’s Air One at least four times over 10 minutes. The beam led back to Santodomingo’s house, where ground officers arrested him. The 22-year-old admitted to aiming at the helicopter, saying he wanted to see how far it would go. He pleaded guilty on February 28 2013.
UK: 6 months suspended, 150 hours unpaid work
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: UPDATED - 30 months in jail for lasing airplane, helicopter
North Hollywood, California, US
On March 25 2013, Gardenhire was sentenced to 30 months in federal prison for aiming a “commercial grade” green laser pointer at an aircraft and a police helicopter on March 29 2012. He could have received five years in prison. The crime has a maximum prison term of up to five years. Federal sentencing guidelines recommended an 18-24 month penalty, but U.S. DIstrict Judge Stephen Wilson said he wanted to send a message that Gardenhire’s behavior was “reckless and very dangerous.”
As of March 25 2013, Gardenhire remains free on bond pending an appeal hearing in April 2013.
UPDATED April 30 2015: A three-judge federal appeals court threw out Gardenhire’s 30-month sentence. They found that although Gardenhire was aware that laser misuse could cause blindness, that information was different from “knowing that a laser beam can be distracting to pilots who are both enclosed in a cockpit and at least 2,640 feet away. Nor did the government submit any evidence of what even an average person would know about the effects of aiming a laser beam at an aircraft.” The appeals court specifically noted that U.S. District Judge Stephen Wilson said the behavior was “reckless” but that this view was “determined to be erroneous.” They asked for a new sentencing hearing, from a new judge in the federal district of Los Angeles. Details at this LaserPointerSafety.com news item.
US: 2 years probation
Parsippany, New Jersey, US
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.
New Zealand: 300 hours of community service
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.
US: 37 months in prison, 3 years probation
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
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
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
Prescott, Arizona, US
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.
UK: 4 months in prison
Romanian migrant, working in UK
On August 16 2010, Moldovan illuminated an RAF Tornado jet for up to ten seconds. He pleaded guilty to culpably and recklessly endangering a military aircraft on September 16 2010.
US: 15 months in prison, 3 years probation
Cathedral City (near Palm Springs), California, US
On June 3 2009, Wells aimed a green laser at a California Highway Patrol helicopter. In July 2010, he pleaded guilty to the felony of willfully interfering with an operator of an aircraft. Wells was sentenced October 25 2010. The assistant U.S. attorney said "This was a very serious crime that deserved prison time."
US: 1 year probation, 140 hours of community service, cannot possess a laser pointer
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.
US: 5 years probation
Lakeland, Florida, US
On November 21 2010, Hazlitt aimed a green laser pointer at a sheriff's department helicopter because he was "tired of hearing" the helicopter. Hazlitt was sentenced June 2 2011 to five years probation on federal charges of interfering with the operation of a helicopter.
The judge ruled that Hazlitt’s laser pointer was not a “dangerous weapon” under the circumstances of the case. This finding helped reduce the severity of Hazlitt’s sentence; he could have received up to 20 years in prison.
US: 6 months in jail, 100 hours of community service
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.
US: 2 years probation, USD $250 fine, 240 hours community service
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.
UK: 6 months in prison for lasers, plus 6 months for theft
On June 6 2011, Oliver aimed a laser pen at a Northumbria Police helicopter. The judge called Oliver "a dangerous idiot." Oliver was sentenced July 26 2011 for directing a light at an aircraft to distract a pilot.
US: 1 year probation, $4000 fine
Orlando, Florida, US
On April 13 2010, Anderson was arrested for aiming a green laser at an Orange County (FL) sheriff's helicopter. He pleaded guilty in December 2010, and was sentenced in July 2011 on a federal charge of interfering with the operation of an aircraft.
His case was especially interesting since it paralleled the case of Jason Dennis McGuire who was arrested March 2010 in Orlando for firing a handgun at an Orange County Sheriff’s Office helicopter. McGuire was sentenced in April 2011 to 12.5 years in prison.
US: 10 days in jail plus 3 years probation
Hollywood, California US
On July 28 2011, Gable was arrested for aiming a green laser at a Los Angeles Police Department helicopter. On December 8 2011, he pleaded guilty to one felony count of "discharge of a laser at an occupied aircraft". In exchange for the guilty plea, other charges were dropped that could have put Gable in jail for three years.
At sentencing on January 12 2012, he received 10 days in jail plus three years probation. He had been expected to receive 200 hours of community work service, but that provision appears to have been dropped since the December 8 guilty plea.
The case received widespread publicity because Gable is the grandson of actor Clark Gable, famed as Rhett Butler in Gone with the Wind and for appearing in 66 other movies.
US: 5 years probation and a $5,000 fine
Virginia Beach, Virginia
On November 1 2011, Willingham aimed a green laser multiple times at a Virginia Beach police helicopter. During the 20-minute long incident, one of the pilots had black spots in one eye and could not see his instruments. On May 18 2012, Willingham was sentenced in federal court to five years probation and a $5,000 fine.
UK: 6 months in jail for six-minute lasing of helicopter
Weston-super-Mare, Avon, UK
On May 12 2012, Nicholls aimed a blue laser pen at a police helicopter for about six minutes. On July 16 2012, he pleaded guilty to one count of recklessly or negligently acting in a manner likely to endanger an aircraft or people in an aircraft. He was sentenced to six months in jail.
US: 90 days in jail, 3 years probation for shining lasers at three aircraft
Phoenix, Arizona, US
On November 9 2011, Cerise aimed a green laser at two commercial aircraft. One was forced to veer off of a final approach, to avoid the laser light. A police helicopter sent to investigate was also lased. Ground units found a laser hidden in Cerise's couch cushions. Cerise eventually admitted aiming at the aircraft to see how far it could go. Authorities said three pilots were temporarily blinded during the incidents.
On August 8 2012, Cerise was sentenced to 90 days in jail and three years supervised probation.
UK: 200 hours community service and £85 in court costs
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.
Australia: AUS $20,000 fine for couple; possible loss of visa
Port Kennedy, Perth, Western Australia
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.