According to the Federal Bureau of Investigation, incidents of laser pointing have risen dramatically since 2005. Many people may be unaware, but pointing a laser at any aircraft is a federal crime and considered extremely serious.
The Law Concerning Lasers
On February 14, 2012, President Obama signed the FAA Modernization and Reform Act of 2012, making it a federal crime to aim a laser pointer at an aircraft. This followed a year after the Federal Aviation Administration announced it would impose civil penalties for pointing lasers into the cockpits of an aircraft.
The FBI said reports of lasers being pointed at aircraft have increased 17 percent since just last year. Since 2005, the number of incidence has increased from less than 300 occurrences to nearly 3,600 reported in 2011.
Lasers have become stronger and more widely available over the last several years. Although the beam is small at its origin, by the time it reaches a cockpit of an aircraft in flight, it may span several feet and can disable the pilots. A laser can temporarily blind a pilot and the crew, putting those in the aircraft as well as nearby aircrafts in danger.
The FBI said many incidents have not resulted in serious injuries, but several commercial pilot have suffered injuries such as a burnt retina due to the lasers.
The federal law signed into effect last year makes pointing a laser at an aircraft punishable by up to five years in prison and $11,000 per violation. An existing law allows an offender to get up to 20 years in prison and face fines of $250,000.