FindLaw Blotter - The FindLaw Crime and Criminals Blog

Point Laser at Cops? Get Sent to Fed Prison

What is a fair sentence for pointing a laser pointer at a police helicopter?

Fifteen months in federal prison, said a California court.

Nineteen-year-old Nathan Ramon Wells was in his car in Cathedral City, California finding himself a bit bored. Then, he thought to himself: I have a laser pointer! I wonder who I can annoy with that? Seeing as how he was not at a movie or a concert, he turned his gaze above, to a nearby police helicopter.

He aimed the green laser pointer at the police helicopter and actually caused it to divert a residential burglary pursuit. The laser pointer prank lit up the cockpit of the helicopter with green light, which forced the pilots to protect their eyes and change course. Wells was tracked down by police and arrested after police found a green laser pointer in his car. The aviation law incident was investigated by the FBI as well as Cathedral City police.

As we recently covered in Blotter, there seems to be a growing trend of aiming the laser pointers at aircraft. Most of the offenders do not realize the seriousness of pulling a laser pointer prank. While it is certainly sad to see a 19-year-old go to prison for what he probably considered a prank, the danger posed by lasers is real. The light floods the cockpit and makes it extremely difficult for the pilots to see. Under federal law, offenders face up to three years in prison for pointing lasers at aircraft.

With good behavior, Wells could be out in just over a year. Here's hoping that word gets out in the meantime that the punishment for screwing around with lasers is no joke.

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