There are many instances in which an individual can run afoul of the law without even realizing it. Unfortunately, ignorance is not a strong defense when presented in court, and a failure to realize the ramifications of one's actions is not always an effective response to criminal charges. One recent incident highlights the ease with which a Pennsylvania resident can end up facing multiple felony charges, without realizing that he or she broke the law.
On a recent evening, two pilots were flying cargo from Pittsburgh to Philadelphia. The Boeing 747 was inflight at 11:00 p.m. on a Tuesday night when a strong beam of green light entered the cockpit. Authorities believe that an individual or individuals on the ground were pointing a laser at the aircraft.
When a laser enters an airplane cockpit, the light can cause serious damage to the eyesight of the pilots, both on a temporary and, in some cases, a permanent basis. In this case, both pilots were temporarily blinded by the beam of green light and had to seek medical treatment upon landing in Philadelphia. According to the FAA, incidents in which lasers have been aimed at operating aircraft have increased more than tenfold over the past 10 years.
It is a federal crime to aim a laser at an aircraft, which is a fact that many in Pennsylvania are unaware of. Lasers are sometimes used by amateur astronomers to locate constellations and are widely available to the public for a range of other uses. However, those who make use of these powerful light-emitting tools should be aware of the risk of multiple felony charges if their laser is directed at a plane during any phase of flight.
Source: triblive.com, "Police: Green laser illuminates cockpit, injures pilots flying out of Pittsburgh", Melissa Daniels, June 25, 2015