In Texas, shining a laser pointer at someone is often seen as a prank or harmless fun. However, this behavior can be criminal if it is directed at an aircraft or at a uniformed safety officer, including a police officer, firefighter, or emergency medical worker.
In this article, we will explain the illegal use of laser pointers in Texas, including the law and potential consequences – and why authorities take this behavior so seriously.
What constitutes the illegal use of laser pointers in Texas?
In Texas, there are two state laws that govern the illegal use of laser pointers. One pertains to aircraft and the other pertains to uniformed safety officers. We’ll break down each below.
- Illegal Use of Laser Pointers at Safety Officers
Under Section 42.13 of the Texas Penal Code – titled “Use of Laser Pointers” – it is a crime to knowingly direct a light from a laser pointer at a uniformed safety officer, including a peace officer, security guard, firefighter, emergency medical service worker or other uniformed municipal, state or federal officer.
- Illegal illumination of Aircraft By Intense Light
Under Section 42.14 of the Texas Penal Code – titled “Illumination of Aircraft by Intense light” – it is a crime to intentionally direct the light from a laser pointer or other light source at an aircraft if light is intense enough to impair the pilot’s ability to control the aircraft.
It’s important to point out that it is not a crime, however, if the light was used to send an emergency distress signal.
What is the punishment for shining laser pointers at airplanes or safety workers?
Safety Officer: In most cases, shining a laser pointer at a uniformed safety officer is a Class C misdemeanor, punishable by a maximum $500 fine.
However, if the conduct causes bodily injury to the officer, it is a third-degree felony punishable by 2 to 10 years in prison and a maximum $10,000 fine. If the conduct causes serious bodily injury, it is a first-degree felony punishable by 5 to 99 years in prison and a maximum $10,000 fine.
Aircraft: In most cases, shining a laser pointer at an aircraft is a Class C misdemeanor punishable by a maximum $500 fine. However, if the laser pointer makes it difficult for the pilot to control the aircraft, the charge can be elevated to a Class A misdemeanor which is punishable by up to a year in the county jail and a maximum $4,000 fine.
Class A Misdemeanors in Texas
Can you be prosecuted federally for aiming lasers at aircraft?
Yes, shining a laser pointer at an aircraft can also be prosecuted federally – and the punishment is more severe in the federal system. Under U.S.C Title 18, Chapter 2, aiming a laser beam at or in the flight path of an aircraft is punishable by up to five years in prison and $250,000 in fines.
Why are there laws making laser pointers a crime?
The short answer is that authorities take the illegal use of laser pointers very seriously because of the potential danger it poses to people and property.
Laser pointers are powerful tools that emit a concentrated beam of light. When directed at an aircraft, this light can cause the pilot to become disoriented or even temporarily blinded, which could lead to a crash. In addition, shining a laser pointer at a uniformed safety officer can cause distraction or even temporary blindness, which could jeopardize the officer’s safety – and the safety of those around them.
For these reasons, state and federal authorities have made it illegal to direct laser pointers at aircraft or uniformed safety officers.
Arrested for the illegal use of laser pointers in North Texas?
If you or a loved one has been arrested for the illegal use of laser pointers in Fort Worth or the surrounding area, it is important to contact an experienced criminal defense attorney as soon as possible. Our team is made up of Board Certified Criminal Attorneys and former prosecutors who have a proven record of success defending clients against all types of criminal charges. We will work tirelessly to ensure that you receive the best possible outcome in your case. Contact us today at 817-203-2220 for a free consultation.