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.
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
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
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.
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
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.
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.
UK: Suspended sentence, rehab for 55-year-old who aimed a laser pen at a helicopter after it interrupted his audiobook
Kentish Town, northwest London, UK
On July 18 2019 Reid aimed a blue laser pen at a police helicopter that was searching for an individual. Reid did so because the helicopter noise was interrupting his listening to an audiobook.
The helicopter aimed a spotlight at Reid, who threw away the laser pen in his back yard. When ground officers came to his home, Reid would not admit them. They had to threaten to use force before he opened the door.
A blue and a green laser pointer were found by a canine unit. Reid admitted the lasers were his.
In court in January 2020, Reid's attorney said Reid was "plagued by police helicopters searching for individuals…. Something got into his head and he utilized this laser pen to cause what could have been a catastrophe."
On January 29 2020, the judge gave Reid a four-month sentence suspended for 18 months, plus he had to complete a 60-day rehabilitation program.
The judge said "Any distraction and that helicopter is crashing into an urban area with devastating consequences. You were irritated, frustrated and annoyed at what they were doing interrupting your audiobook and it’s clear you were not thinking about the consequences of your behaviour. By the finest margin I can imagine I can suspend this sentence. You’ve caught me on a good day."
Houston, Texas, US
On June 23 2018, Texas Department of Public Safety (DPS) agents were flying an Airbus AS350 B3 helicopter on routine law enforcement patrol. At approximately 9:00 p.m., they were headed in the northwest direction along highway US-290 when agents observed a flash of green light coming from the left side of the aircraft. At the time, they were at approximately 1000 feet elevation and traveling at a speed of 70-80 knots.
The pilot reversed the aircraft back to the southeast direction and was illuminated again by the green laser, which was powerful enough to light up the entire cockpit. The light caused a glare in the pilot’s eyes and obstructed his vision, forcing him to turn his head and maneuver the Airbus away from it. The pilot also had to close and shield his eyes from the flashing green laser inside the cockpit.
The investigation led to the source of the light at a business near the intersection of Hollister and Pitner Roads in Houston. With the help of the Houston Police Department (HPD) and the store’s security cameras, Brian Aldana was soon identified.
Video recordings show Aldana aiming a green laser up in the sky several times and a green laser pointer at the helicopter while sitting in a chair next to a silver sedan. He was also seen placing the green laser device through the opening of the silver sedan window on to the backseat.
Officers seized the laser and submitted it to a National Aeronautics and Space Administration scientist to be examined. The scientist concluded the laser pointer is a Class IIIB laser system and produced a “laser beam” which could result in serious and possibly permanent retinal damage.
In April 2019, Aldana pleaded guilty to aiming a laser pointer at an aircraft. He faced up to five years in prison and a possible $250,000 maximum fine.
On July 22 2019, Aldana was sentenced to 48 months in prison, and will have an additional three years of supervised release after he is released from prison.
From a LaserPointerSafety.com story and update.
Portland, Oregon, US
In 2016, Bocharnikov, who is a locksmith, was hired to unlock a stolen car. Police told him he could keep a green laser pointer found inside the car.
In July 2017, Bochnarnikov used the laser pointer to aim at trees and then, to aim four times at a Cessna 172 used by the Portland Police Bureau which was coming in for a landing. The pilot and flight officer directed ground officers to Bocharnikov's location.
Bocharnikov told the officers he did not think the laser could reach the aircraft, and he did not see the laser on the aircraft. He told investigating FBI agents that he was sorry and that "it was a stupid thing to do."
In April 2019 he pleaded guilty to one count of aiming a laser pointer at an aircraft. He was sentenced July 16 2019 to three years of probation.
From KOIN.com and KXL.com
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.”
Coalsville, Utah, US
On August 28 2017, a medical helicopter traveling from Wyoming to Utah was illuminated by green laser light which “kind of distracted us from flying” according to the pilot. On the return trip from the hospital, the helicopter also was targeted by a green beam.
A man identified at the time as Ryan Michael Kane, 25, was arrested based on location information provided by the pilot. He was charged with violating the federal law prohibiting deliberate aiming at an aircraft, or the flight path of an aircraft. The felony carries a prison sentence up to 5 years and a fine of up to $250,000.
In March 2017 Kane pleaded guilty in return for a six month prison sentence.
At sentencing on July 12 2018, Kane (now identified as Michael Ray Kane) was sentenced to three years probation. He was prohibited from owning a laser pointer during the probation, and was required to undergo periodic drug testing during that time.
U.S. District Judge Dale Kimball may have decided on probation after hearing that Kane had come to realize that what he did was dangerous, had cooperated with investigators, had a child, and had stopped using marijuana. Kimball told Kane “I'm satisfied that you're finally growing up, but I'm telling you, do not get in any more trouble.”
From KSL.com (November 1 2017 and July 12 2018). Original LaserPointerSafety.com story here.
Belfast, Northern Ireland
Barkley was sentenced June 8 2018 to two years probation for aiming a laser pen at a Police Service of Northern Ireland helicopter hovering above a crowd at a football (soccer) match. Barkley had also previously been convicted in 2015 of the same crime, recklessly endangering the safety of an aircraft, in addition to a criminal record of nine offenses.
The second offense occurred October 5 2017 during a World Cup qualifier game between Northern Ireland and Germany. The helicopter was monitoring the crowd at Windsor Park football ground when it was illuminated two times by laser light. The pilot could not fly by sight; he had to use instruments. The helicopter identified the laser as coming from a nearby home. Ground officers arrested Barkley while the helicopter retreated to the safety of Belfast City Airport.
At trial, it was noted that Barkley had a low IQ and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). He was smoking marijuana in his bedroom at the time of the arrest.
The judge said a jail sentence “would not help society or prevent further offending.”
During his two-year probation, Barkley would receive help with his drug problems. The judge did note that if Barkley violated probation he “will go straight to prison.”
In 2015, Barkley’s laser conviction was dealt with by a youth diversion conference because of his age at the time.
From BBC News, Belfast Telegraph and Newsletter.co.uk
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.
Marana, Arizona, US
Demery was sentenced on November 28 2017 to two years probation and a $2,000 fine. He was also prohibited from possessing a laser pointer, apparently for the duration of the probation.
On April 10 2017, Demery aimed a laser pointer at a Cessna flown by the Pima County Sheriff’s Department. He pleaded guilty in September 2017.
At the November 2017 sentencing hearing, Demery apologized to the judge and said he would never aim a laser pointer at a plane again.
During sentencing, the judge said “I’d hate to think some yahoo like you is pointing a laser at my plane.”
From the Arizona Daily Star
Tulsa, Oklahoma, US
Howell was sentenced on July 10 2017 to one year of probation, despite sentencing guidelines recommending an 18-24 month prison sentence.
On December 29 2016, JHowell aimed the laser 11 times at the helicopter. He was indicted by a federal grand jury on February 7 2017 on one count of aiming the laser. The maximum penalty is up to five years in federal prison and/or up to a $250,000 fine.
Howell pleaded guilty on April 10 2017 to the charge.
While U.S. sentencing guidelines recommended an 18-24 month prison term, the judge sentenced Howell to one year of probation. The judge cited Howell’s age (53), limited criminal history and remorse for his actions. The prosecuting U.S. attorney did not object to the sentence, telling the judge “He’s the perfect candidate. I don’t anticipate ever seeing Mr. Howell again.”
If probation is revoked, Howell could serve up to the maximum sentence of five years.
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.
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."
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.
Gardenia, California, US
Gomez pleaded no contest September 14 2015 to aiming a high-powered green laser at an aircraft, and then at Los Angeles County fire and police helicopters on February 14 2015. Gomez, of Gardenia Calif., was sentenced November 2 2015 to one year in jail and three years probation.
Bakersfield, California, US
On September 28 2015, Bowser was sentenced to 21 months in federal prison plus three years of supervised release and a $10,000 “special assessment fee”, for aiming a “powerful green laser” at a Kern County Sheriff’s Office helicopter.
From an FBI press release: “In June , a federal jury found Bowser guilty of aiming the beam of a laser at Air-1, a Kern County Sheriff’s helicopter that was providing support to ground units responding to a man armed with a gun. At trial, the evidence established that the mission was diverted when the pilot of Air-1 was struck by direct hits from a powerful green laser that illuminated the cockpit and tracked the aircraft near the approach path to Meadows Field Airport. The laser strikes caused the pilot to experience flash blindness, eye discomfort, and pain that lasted several hours. In imposing sentence, U.S. District Judge Lawrence J. O’Neill found that Bowser had obstructed justice before trial by concealing the laser and providing false statements to law enforcement and at trial through his false testimony about the offense.”
On September 23 2016 Bowser published a public apology, which said that the incident had ruined his life: “I also want to educate anyone who owns a laser and might be inclined to use it the way I did: Learn from my mistake. I am now just getting out of prison. I have paid dearly, for I have lost my girlfriend, my dog, my home, my vehicle. Everything I owned, everything I have worked for 30 years of my life, is gone. For shining a laser at a helicopter for three seconds, I lost my entire life. I am now 54 years old and I have no one and nothing but the clothes I was given when I was released from prison.”
Original LaserPointerSafety.com story here; story with complete apology letter here.
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.
Fresno, California, US
Zarate was sentenced November 3 2014 to one year in prison and two years of supervised release, for aiming a laser at a California Highway Patrol aircraft. He could have received five years and a $250,000 fine for illuminating Air 43 up to 50 times with a “powerful green laser pointer” according to the FBI.
During the incident, the pilot suffered temporary blindness and Air 43 was forced to break away from a burglary in progress at a Fresno middle school.
Zarate’s co-defendent, David Walter Fee, was sentenced in September 2014 to 18 months in prison.
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.
Austin, Texas, US
Ruedas was sentenced October 2 2014 to two years in federal prison, with an additional three years probation after his release. On July 7 2014, he had pleaded guilty to one count of pointing a laser at an aircraft.
On February 15 2014, Ruedas aimed a laser at an Austin police department helicopter coming in to land at Austin-Bergstrom International Airport. The pilot was distracted, but was able to relay the laser’s location to ground officers who arrested Ruedas.
Fresno, California, US
Fee was sentenced September 29 2014 to 18 months in prison, plus two years of supervised release, for aiming a laser at a California Highway Patrol aircraft. He could have received five years and a $250,000 fine for illuminating Air 43 up to 50 times with a “powerful green laser pointer” according to the FBI.
During the incident, the pilot suffered temporary blindness and Air 43 was forced to break away from a burglary in progress at a Fresno middle school.
Zarate’s co-defendent, Andrew Zarate, was sentenced November 3 2014 to one year in prison.
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.
McComb, Ohio, US
Deal was sentenced on August 25 2014 to one month in prison followed by two years of probation. He had pleaded guilty to making a false statement or representation to a department or agency of the United States.
Between August 5 and 9 2012, he told investigators he did not know about a June 17 2012 incident where a laser pointer was aimed at an aircraft, and that he later falsely took the blame for the incident.
Bircotes, Nottinghamshire, UK
Martin was sentenced August 14 2014 to 12 months of community order (probation/supervision) and 120 hours unpaid work, £85 in court costs, and a £60 victim surcharge. On January 28 2014, she aimed a laser pen about three times at a police helicopter flying over Bircotes -- even though her boyfriend told her not to aim at the aircraft. Her lawyer said Martin did not realize the laser’s power, had not read the label, and did not understand the hazard.
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.”
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.”
Clovis, California, US
In the summer of 2012, Coleman and her then-boyfriend, Sergio Patrick Rodriguez, 26, 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 May 12 2014, Coleman was sentenced to two years in prison, to be followed by three years of supervised release, for aiming a laser pointer at a law enforcement aircraft. Rodriguez had earlier been sentenced to 14 years in prison: eight for the laser incident and an additional six due to his prior criminal record.
UPDATED October 29 2016: Coleman’s sentence was revoked after review by the U.S. Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals. She received five years probation instead. From Courthouse News Service
Tucson, Arizona, US
On February 12 2014, Downey was sentenced to two years suspended probation in federal court, for aiming a laser pointer at a Pima County Sheriff’s department airplane on March 5 2013. Downey and another man were also suspected of lasing a commercial airplane prior to the sheriff’s plane.
Columbus, Ohio, US
On March 21 2013, Rademacher aimed a blue laser at a Columbus police helicopter “because he was bored.” One pilot said it was the brightest laser he had ever seen. The pilots were able to locate the source, and directed ground units to Rademacher’s home. He pleaded guilty in September 2013 to one felony count of possession of criminal tools; a more-serious charge of interfering with the operation of an aircraft with a laser was dismissed as part of the plea agreement. On November 7 2013, Rademacher was sentenced to 45 days in the Franklin County jail and 18 months of probation. If he violates probation, he will be imprisoned for 12 months.
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.
Omaha, Nebraska, US
On July 22 2013, Smith was sentenced to two years in federal prison to be followed by a 3-year term of supervised release. He had been convicted April 24 2013 of aiming a laser at an Omaha police helicopter “six or seven times” on July 11 2012. The police were looking for the source of an earlier red laser aimed at a Southwest Airlines flight that was landing in Omaha. According to one news report, Smith had previously been fined $9,000 by the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration.
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.
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, US
On April 10 2013, Dangler was sentenced to three months in jail plus seven months home confinement and three years supervised release, for aiming a green laser at a news media helicopter on July 18 2012. He pleaded guilty on October 17 2012. Dangler still faces FAA civil charges that could result in a penalty up to $11,000.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Bakersfield, California US
On November 6 2010, Gentry was arrested for aiming a laser four times at a Kern County Sheriff's Office helicopter. The pilot suffered temporary spots in his eyes, and was disoriented enough that the aircraft went off course. On January 9 2012, Gentry was sentenced to time served (he had been in jail seven months) and one year of probation.
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.
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.
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.
Fostoria, Ohio, US
On July 20 2010, Manz aimed 50 milliwatt handheld lasers at river barges, airplanes and a police helicopter in downtown Memphis, Tennessee. He pleaded guilty on May 20 2011 to lying to FBI agents. Manz could have received up to 30 months in prison.
Also involved were David Erminger, 28, and Matthew Mauck, 34. They were placed on one-year diversion on June 22 2011. The criminal charges against them will be erased if they stay out of trouble (no new charges) during the next year.
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.
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.
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."
Orland, California, US
On October 21 2009, Nighswander aimed a green laser at a California Highway Patrol helicopter at least four times. He was sentenced September 28 2010 for using a laser to interfere with an aircraft.
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.
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.