PennLaw, LLC

Criminal Defense Representation In State And Federal Courts

Free Initial Consultation
Butler: 724-602-4583
Pittsburgh: 412-342-8000
Review Us

Federal law lowers prosecutors' burden in laser-in-cockpit cases

A new rule signed into law by President Barack Obama on Feb. 14 makes it a federal crime to shine a laser pointer into aircraft. Those convicted of pointing a laser into an airplane or helicopter cockpit can face up to five years in prison and hundreds of thousands of dollars in fines. Federal prosecutors are threatening to aggressively enforce the new statute.

Up to now, pointing lasers at aircraft has been a federal crime, though prosecutors had to prove that the accused person did it to endanger people aboard. The only person in the Pittsburgh area to be charged with shining a laser into a cockpit in recent years is a University of Pittsburgh student who university police say shined a green laser pointer into a pair of ambulance helicopters as they flew to a nearby hospital on July 17.

The student admitted using the laser and said he did not realize that doing so was a safety hazard. Pilots say that laser beams can distract them and temporarily blind them if shined into their eyes.

Now, those accused of shining an aircraft with a laser can face federal criminal charges - even if, like the Pitt student, the accused did not realize the risks - as part of the FAA Modernization and Reform Act of 2012. The new law is a reaction to what authorities say is an increasing number of incidents. The FAA says that there were 3,591 incidents involving a laser in 2011, though it is not clear how many of them resulted in a crash or injuries.

The FAA says that there were 75 incidents of lasers in cockpits in the Pittsburgh area since 2009.

Source: Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, "Punishment rises for aiming lasers at planes, helicopters," Torsten Ove, Feb. 28, 2012

No Comments

Leave a comment
Comment Information
Email Us For A Response

Arrested? Contact Us Today

Bold labels are required.

Contact Information

The use of the Internet or this form for communication with the firm or any individual member of the firm does not establish an attorney-client relationship. Confidential or time-sensitive information should not be sent through this form.


Privacy Policy

106 South Main Street
Suite 801
Butler, PA 16001

Phone: 412-342-8000
Fax: 724-284-9402
Butler Law Office Map

100 Ross St.
Suite 340
Pittsburgh, PA 15219

Phone: 724-602-4583
Fax: 724-284-9402
Map & Directions