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Couple Busted For Shining Laser At Helicopter 863

Posted by kdawson
from the do-not-look-directly-into-laser-beam-with-your-remaining-eye dept.
coondoggie sends us to another Network World piece, this one about a couple charged with shining a green laser into the cockpit of a police helicopter. The FBI and the US attorney's office charged the California couple under a federal statute. They could end up paying a $250,000 fine and doing 20 years of jail time. "The complaint states that on November 8, 2007, at about 10:55 p.m., a green laser beam illuminated the cockpit of a Kern County Sheriff's Department helicopter, which was flying at 500 feet during routine patrol in Bakersfield, California. When the light hit the cockpit, it disoriented the Kern County Sheriff's pilot, causing pain and discomfort in his eyes for a couple of hours, the FBI said in a statement."
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Couple Busted For Shining Laser At Helicopter

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  • Obligatory (Score:5, Funny)

    by Billosaur (927319) * <`wgrother' `at' `optonline.net'> on Thursday December 20, 2007 @02:25PM (#21767328) Journal

    "Don't lase me, bro!"

  • Are these common laser pointers you find for use on PPT presentations and exercising your cat/dog without moving from the sofa? Or are these more powerful items?
    • by $RANDOMLUSER (804576) on Thursday December 20, 2007 @02:32PM (#21767446)
      It was a GREEN laser, which puts out a lot more power than your standard red keychain ornament. One of the advertised uses for a green laser is as a "sky pointer".
      • by cayenne8 (626475) on Thursday December 20, 2007 @02:36PM (#21767530) Homepage Journal
        "One of the advertised uses for a green laser is as a "sky pointer".

        So, what if these people were using it 'as advertised', to point to sky objects, and this pilot flew INTO their beam? Is that still a chargeable crime? Do they have to prove intent of these people trying to shine it at the helicopter to cause damage or pain to the pilot?

        • by Franio (964631) on Thursday December 20, 2007 @02:49PM (#21767780)

          Even shooting a laser through a public space (meaning anywhere outdoors) in the US is considered a misdemeanor. Pointing at a police office is a more serious crime because they may mistake it for a gun.

          So while 'sky pointing' is advertised as a feature, it doesn't actually mean that it may be used that way.

          • by Scorchio (177053) on Thursday December 20, 2007 @03:19PM (#21768420)
            Misdemeanor? Are you sure about that?

            They're a popular accessory for stargazers, as seen here [telescopes.com]. Obviously, shining them at people/aircraft is a bad thing, but I didn't think their proper use was illegal.
        • by spaceyhackerlady (462530) on Thursday December 20, 2007 @02:52PM (#21767844)

          So, what if these people were using it 'as advertised', to point to sky objects, and this pilot flew INTO their beam? Is that still a chargeable crime? Do they have to prove intent of these people trying to shine it at the helicopter to cause damage or pain to the pilot?

          That's the problem. Green lasers are powerful, and they are very bright (intrinsically, plus the sensitivity of our eyes to green). If you misuse them, you can hurt somebody with them. What else is new?

          I own one myself, and use it as a pointer for astronomy. It works really well. I am careful where I point it. I am careful who I allow to use it.

          If I deliberately pointed it at an aircraft to try to distract the pilot, that would indeed be A Bad Thing.

          If an aircraft accidently happened to wander in to the path when I was showing somebody where M31 or Comet 17P/Holmes was, is it a crime? I don't think so.

          ...laura

          • by AHumbleOpinion (546848) on Thursday December 20, 2007 @02:59PM (#21767988) Homepage
            If an aircraft accidently happened to wander in to the path when I was showing somebody where M31 or Comet 17P/Holmes was, is it a crime? I don't think so.

            It may not be a crime, but you may still be liable for the incident. It is probably your responsibility to not illuminate aircraft. Much like it is a shooter's responsibility to make sure downrange is clear. You may set up a target in the desert and intend to shoot only at the target, but if you hit someone/something a mile downrange you are responsible.

            It is a virtual certainty that if a crash results you will be sued into oblivion.
          • by ByOhTek (1181381) on Thursday December 20, 2007 @02:59PM (#21767990) Journal

            If an aircraft accidently happened to wander in to the path when I was showing somebody where M31 or Comet 17P/Holmes was, is it a crime? I don't think so.


            Aircraft don't suddenly appear, they move across fairly predictable paths.

            If an aircraft were moving towards the area you were shining the laser, would you turn it off, or keep it shining?
          • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

            by AJWM (19027)
            If an aircraft accidently happened to wander in to the path

            If it was a plane it'd be flying at anywhere from 100 feet/second on up, so beam exposure would be sub-millisecond on any given part of the plane (or cockpit). Since helicopters can fly slowly or hover, it's less certain how long an accidental exposure might be -- although presumably the whole point of a green laser is that's it's bright enough to see the beam reflecting off dust in the air. The pilot might be a little surprised to see a beam mat
        • by icepick72 (834363) on Thursday December 20, 2007 @03:01PM (#21768024)
          I'm not arguing one side or the other, but there is a such thing as "Negligent Homicide": is the killing of another person through gross negligence or without malice.


          Nobody was accidentally killed in this case but it could have been close. For example, compare RIAA fines against murder charges and you begin to realize it's not a level playing field ... the law.

      • by Jah-Wren Ryel (80510) on Thursday December 20, 2007 @03:03PM (#21768072)

        It was a GREEN laser, which puts out a lot more power than your standard red keychain ornament.
        Technically, that is not true. Red laser pointer, green laser pointer, all the commonly sold models put out less than 5mw of energy. The green lasers LOOK stronger because the human eye is more sensitive to green. But it is the power level that causes damage, not how bright it looks. Else, infra-red lasers, being completely invisible to the human eye, would not be dangerous at all.
        • by AnalogDiehard (199128) on Thursday December 20, 2007 @07:33PM (#21772634)
          I am a laser engineer at work (I work with dangerous class IV lasers) and have taken laser safety courses.

          Else, infra-red lasers, being completely invisible to the human eye, would not be dangerous at all.

          Absolutely positively not true. Laser sources that emit a non-visible beam fall in class IIIR, class IIIB or class IV which are the worst eye hazards regardless of power. ANSI Z136.1 specifies that non-visible class IIIR or higher laser beams must be enclosed to prevent laser radiation exposure to non-trained personnel.

          I work around exposed class IV CO2 10600nm laser beams capable of putting out 100 watts (that's watts, not mW) of power. The beam is invisible to the human eye yet it is capable of cutting metal. "Not dangerous at all" is a serious understatement.

      • by pla (258480) on Thursday December 20, 2007 @03:32PM (#21768636) Journal
        It was a GREEN laser, which puts out a lot more power than your standard red keychain ornament.

        No, no, and... No!

        A IIIa (now called 3R for the type of devices under consideration here) puts out less than 5mW. 5mW of green laser light doesn't magically contain more energy than 5mw of red laser light.

        Humans perceive green light as much, much brighter because we have a higher sensitivity to it. But in terms of total power, 5mW equals 5mW equals 5mW.

        That said, IIIB/3R can cause temporary eye damage, though it takes some effort to target it just in the right spot and for long enough (a quick random sweep across the eyes won't do it). But "disorientation" and "hours of discomfort", over 500ft away and through a window? No. Evil piggies just want to cry victim.
        • by AnalogDiehard (199128) on Thursday December 20, 2007 @07:15PM (#21772322)
          I am a laser engineer at work (I work with dangerous class IV lasers) and have taken laser safety courses.

          A IIIa (now called 3R for the type of devices under consideration here) puts out less than 5mW. 5mW of green laser light doesn't magically contain more energy than 5mw of red laser light.

          Humans perceive green light as much, much brighter because we have a higher sensitivity to it. But in terms of total power, 5mW equals 5mW equals 5mW.

          What you are neglecting is the retina absorption of laser radiation, which varies with wavelength. The human eye absorbs the most light energy in the 500-700nm wavelength range, which happens to be where green (532nm) and red (660nm) fall within. In the same amount of time, 5mW of 532nm laser energy will do more eye damage than 5mW of ultraviolet 400nm laser energy.

          That said, IIIB/3R can cause temporary eye damage, though it takes some effort to target it just in the right spot and for long enough (a quick random sweep across the eyes won't do it). But "disorientation" and "hours of discomfort", over 500ft away and through a window? No. Evil piggies just want to cry victim.

          Incorrect. Any laser higher than class 1M can cause permanent eye damage. Laser eye injuries are extremely painful even at class II 1mW or lower levels. Class IIIR (formerly IIIa) lasers can produce no more than 5mW, but class IIIB lasers can produce as much as 500mW and can cause skin damage.

          Lasers are not a controlled substance. One could purchase a class IIIB green laser that puts out 500mW of laser energy and really do damage to a pilot from the ground. If you think these people are exaggerating about their suffering, you are dead wrong.

          • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

            by PMBjornerud (947233)

            In the same amount of time, 5mW of 532nm laser energy will do more eye damage than 5mW of ultraviolet 400nm laser energy.

            Not that I am planning, to, but does this mean you could make an ultraviolet (or infrared) laser that would damage someone's eyes without them seeing any light or understanding why it suddenly hurts so much? Is the blink reflex triggered by light, so you could bypass it with non-visible wavelengths and cause damage?

            I'll order an array of those for my dark, gothic castle tower, then. Shine it over the villagers! They'll never know why it hurts so much to glance at my evil castle, they'll just know that over

      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        Um. . . no.

        A 200mw green laser is no more / less powerful than it's red / blue / infrared counterparts
        of the same power level. If the couple were truly evil, they would have used an infrared
        lab laser with an output of 5-15 Watts. The officer wouldn't even know what happened until
        his eyes 'popped'. Infrared is actually more dangerous because of the lack of the blink
        factor. Shine a bright light in your eyes and you'll close them / turn away to deal with
        it. Infrared you won't even realize you're in dange
      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        It was a GREEN laser, which puts out a lot more power than your standard red keychain ornament.

        No, they don't actually put out more power-- they seem brighter because the eye is more sensitive to green than to red.

        One of the advertised uses for a green laser is as a "sky pointer".

        Green lasers are "sky pointers" because green light will scatter from the atmosphere better than red light-- so you get more of a "line" showing where you're pointing in the sky. (blue lasers scatter even better-- but the eye is most sensitive to green)

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by nmb3000 (741169)
      Are these common laser pointers you find for use on PPT presentations and exercising your cat/dog without moving from the sofa? Or are these more powerful items?

      My guess is that it was something like this [thinkgeek.com], but it could have been something more powerful like this [thinkgeek.com]. Both are consumer devices, but both are still potentially damaging with sustained exposure.

      If it was a consumer device I have a hard time buying it "causing pain and discomfort in his eyes for a couple of hours" so maybe I'm wrong. That or the FB
    • by yakumo.unr (833476) on Thursday December 20, 2007 @02:35PM (#21767522) Homepage
      These are generalisations but :

      Presentation pointers are red, very low powered, you can't see the beam without some kind of mist, you can get them for under five pounds in the UK all over the place, normally smaller than a pen, but thicker.

      Green lasers are more powerful, you can see the beam in clear conditions, they cost an awful lot more ( somewhere between 100 - 200), are much larger, closer to say, a couple of coke cans stood on end, and can cut through a polystyrene cup....

      Or at least that was the case the last time I looked maybe a year ago, I just took the first google hit that caught my eye and unsurprisingly they've got smaller and cheaper now : http://www.thinkgeek.com/gadgets/lights/5a47/ [thinkgeek.com]

      heh, the thinkgeek page even specifically points out "Warning: Green lasers are very powerful. Pointing at aircraft may land you in jail. Without a Monopoly card to get you back out. Use it wisely."
      • Green lasers are more powerful, you can see the beam in clear conditions, they cost an awful lot more ( somewhere between 100 - 200), are much larger, closer to say, a couple of coke cans stood on end, and can cut through a polystyrene cup....

        How does that work? With standard lasers, the beam of light is coherent and so is unlikely to be seen unless something in the air (water molecules, smoke, etc) provides something to reflect off of, otherwise the beam would remain invisible up until it hit a solid target and you would then see the red dot.

        How does a green laser make itself visible where a red laser would not? Does a more intense beam require less "stuff" in the air to create reflections and thus a visible beam effect?

        • by e4g4 (533831) on Thursday December 20, 2007 @03:09PM (#21768202)
          I believe that the reason you can see a green laser beam is because that wavelength of light is not readily absorbed by water molecules in the air, thus some fraction of the beam is reflected. In the case of a red laser, water molecules readily absorb red and infrared light (case in point - if you go scuba diving greater than ~30 ft down, and cut yourself, you bleed green - all the red light from the sun is absorbed by that depth) and thus the beam is less visible.
          • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

            by OeLeWaPpErKe (412765)
            actually just the opposite. You can see the beam because it is absorbed more than the red one ... and then retransmitted, which has the effect of scattering the beam.

            The sun shines white, that's true. It appears yellow because the blue is scattered. By contrast the entire remainder of the sky appears blue (because the blue rays, while coming from the sun, have been scattered by absorption and re-transmission).

            What an electron absorbs in energy, it will retransmit some time later.
      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by cowscows (103644)
        I can't remember the website off the top of my head, but a few months back, I ordered a green laser pointer for about 20 bucks. It was the least powerful of the green lasers they had (5mW), it can't cut through anything. It's a normal pen size, similar to the one you linked on think geek. They had increasingly powerful ones, but the price differences were very small.

        I use mine primarily to point things out while documenting buildings, and went with the weakest green laser just for a little bit more safety.
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by DrXym (126579)
        Where "use wisely" probably means if you're going to point these things at helicopters, to do so from somewhere they cannot identify who you are.
  • Dumb. Asses. (Score:2, Insightful)

    Sums it all up, I think.

    Put one of these powerful green lasers in the hands of an idiot and see that the first thing they'll do is shine it on somebody's face.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by UbuntuDupe (970646) *
      Put one of these powerful helicopters in the hands of a power-hungery cop and see that the first thing they'll do is noisily hover over my house, disrupting whatever I was doing.

      Seriously, do they not realize that they're *also* a nuisance to people on the ground?
      • by Applekid (993327) on Thursday December 20, 2007 @03:05PM (#21768120)
        Chief: Do not be alarmed. Continue swimming naked.
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by susano_otter (123650)
        Right, because the citizens of Bakersfield, California are powerless to regulate Police Department policy... oh, wait.

        See, these people would have a lot more of my sympathy if they had first advocated a change in Police Department policy, and then when the majority of their fellow community members declined to support their cause they moved out of that community to a community that agreed with their preferences, and the Bakersfield PD helicopter followed them to that new community and continued to harass th
      • Re:Dumb. Asses. (Score:4, Interesting)

        by morcheeba (260908) on Thursday December 20, 2007 @04:04PM (#21769194) Journal
        Yes... I fly with them occasionally, and they are very aware of this. We had a call for something serious in a neighborhood next to an outdoor festival -- they purposefully kept away from the festival so that it wouldn't disturb it and wouldn't look like they were monitoring it. I know all the cops who fly in our city (it's just a handful), and they're all very professional. Hope the same's true in your city -- flying the helicopter is a privilege; they don't just stick any bozo in it.
  • Good! (Score:5, Funny)

    by Hatta (162192) on Thursday December 20, 2007 @02:29PM (#21767396) Journal
    I hate the police as much as anyone, but that's not cool. Unless the helicopter is spotting pot farms, in which case an anti-aircraft missile should be used instead.
  • They hit a pilot (Score:3, Interesting)

    by geekoid (135745) <dadinportland@yBLUEahoo.com minus berry> on Thursday December 20, 2007 @02:32PM (#21767458) Homepage Journal
    in the eyes, and over 500 ft?

    The article didn't seem to indicate what kind of laser they used.

    I also wonder how bad they where effected if they where still able to find the laser. That is just a point of curiosity. Certainly shining a laser of any significant power at an aircraft is to be frowned upon. Obviously excluding vehicles of war.

  • by Sciros (986030)
    GREEN LASER OF DEATH [radioshack.com] (as far as I could tell from the report; they said a $50 laser from RadioShack).

    So... don't buy one of these pens or you might shine it at a chopper at night by accident and then spend 20 years in the slammer or pay a quarter mil or whatevs. Though for forking over that much dough for a stupid laser pen to begin with, a $250,000 fine may ironically be appropriate.
  • Don't lase me bro! (Score:2, Insightful)

    by snarfies (115214)
    Good. The maximum punishment seems a tad harsh, but yeah, they should, in fact, be busted. What they did was dangerous, and they actually hurt somebody (the pilot). It could have been worse. The pilot could have been blinded. He could have crashed the helicopter right into somebody's house. Okay, so maybe they didn't mean any actual harm, and maybe the judge will take that into account.
  • I wasn't flying a helicopter, though. My retina had torn, and the surgeon welded it back together.

    I fail to see why this story made slashdot. I read a newspaper article last year IIRC about a fellow getting jailed for shining a laser at a commercial air liner, which would be far more dangerous than shining it at a police helicopter. Well, to anybody but the guy with the laser anyway.

    The danger, of course, is that the pilot will be blinded or disoriented and could crash the vehicle. After the surgery on my r
  • Laws != Justice (Score:5, Insightful)

    by jellomizer (103300) * on Thursday December 20, 2007 @02:37PM (#21767552)
    Part of the problem is that Laws have become so stict that it prevents exersizing justice. Is the action illegal... Yes does it deserve 20 years and 5 years of pay, no. What would be more fare would be $5,000 fine. for a first offence. These huge life killing fines are unjust for the crime that are caused forcing the person into jail (for people who are not a continued danger to society) or Paying huge sumes of money will only make the problem worse... Oh a person commited a Crime Put him in Jail for 1/3 of his life and make sure when he gets out he can't pay any bills... That'll make sure he won't comment a crime again... a $5000 fine will be enough for the person to feel it and not willing to try again, but yet will be able to live his life as a productive and law abiding citizen.
  • by monomania (595068) on Thursday December 20, 2007 @02:39PM (#21767580)
    Higher watt green lasers like this ClassIIIB http://www.thinkgeek.com/gadgets/lights/ [thinkgeek.com] can definitely be considered a hazard in the hands of idiots.
  • Umm.. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Hangin10 (704729) on Thursday December 20, 2007 @02:39PM (#21767596)
    Alright, let's see here. An average divergence for a class 3B green laser is around 1.2mRad, with a (on the large side) 1.5mm aperture.
    At 500 feet (152.4m):

    1.5 + (152.4 * 1.2) mm = 18.438cm

    Roughly .6 ft diameter which, while probably larger than the distance between eyes, I'd have
    to say people that aim at planes and helicopters have really good aim. While the heli pilot could
    easily have been hurt if this laser was of the higher powers one can easily get around the web
    (ie 200mw), a plane is much further up, the cockpit would merely be green, the pilot would not
    be hurt. Remember that energy decreases with area. It's probably a distance squared type thing, but
    my physics is rusty.

    Is it really that hard to NOT shine a laser at a helicopter? I mean the thing takes up maybe 30'' of arc of 180deg of sky... Idiots.
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by Goldenhawk (242867)
      Actually the helicopter was at 500 feet ALTITUDE. If it was directly over the laser, nobody would have seen the beam. So in reality, the helo was probably at least a half mile (slant range) from the laser. Given this, the beam was probably five or six feet wide - easy to get both aircrew at once.

      For all the "oops, it was an accident" types, consider that anyone using a laser beam outside at night is doing it TO LOOK AT THINGS - you will NOT miss an airplane with its flashing beacons and strobe lights. This
    • Re:Umm.. (Score:5, Insightful)

      by wiredlogic (135348) on Thursday December 20, 2007 @03:44PM (#21768854)
      The biggest problem is that these incidents all happen at night and the beam is still bright enough to overload the retina of the pilot and force their iris to constrict. This effectively destroys their night vision and makes for a very dangerous situation until their eyes can recover. If you were the pilot you'd be pissed too.
  • by posterlogo (943853) on Thursday December 20, 2007 @02:40PM (#21767602)
    What right do you have to create a dangerous situation for pilots? The fact that no accident happened here should mitigate the penalties, but would you really want to be on the receiving end of a laser beam when you're trying to fly a helo or plane?
  • Filtering (Score:3, Interesting)

    by SWad (454879) on Thursday December 20, 2007 @02:43PM (#21767658)
    Can't they develop cockpit glass that will filter out that particular wavelength?
    • by Daniel_Staal (609844) <DStaal@usa.net> on Thursday December 20, 2007 @03:31PM (#21768628)
      Sure.

      Of course, you can get lasers in at least three colors, probably more. And it's significantly hard to filter out just one wavelength, without filtering neghboring wavelengths as well. Which would mean in this case they would want to filter out green. The color of treetops, and grass, and overall a significant portion of the Earth's surface.

      And of course, following that logic, you'd want to filter out the other main colors that lasers come in. Red are extremely common, and blue are just starting to get on the market. So we'll filter both of those out.

      You know what would be a good filter at this point? Polished steel. It'd reflect that laser right away, and convently blocks all the colors mentioned.
      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by novakyu (636495)
        I know you are just joking, but it is possible to filter out all available wavelengths and still maintain visibility.

        First of all, there are not "at least three colors". Very few laser diodes (cheap ones, especially) lase at wavelengths less than 600 nm. There are green lasers at 532 nm (so here's one color to block), and I suppose apparently there are blue laser pointers [thinkgeek.com] now. But since those things cost an arm and a leg, it doesn't need to be blocked. Most red lasers lase at something close to He-Ne wavele
    • Re:Filtering (Score:5, Informative)

      by AnalogDiehard (199128) on Thursday December 20, 2007 @04:49PM (#21769928)

      Can't they develop cockpit glass that will filter out that particular wavelength?

      I am a laser engineer at work (trained to work with dangerous high power class IV lasers) and can tell you that there are limitations to this approach.

      The filter material at most laser wavelengths would not be clear. My laser safety goggles for 532nm green lasers are dark amber, 660nm red laser goggles are blue. Not practical for navigating aircraft around obstacles.

      There is no single filter that is effective for all wavelengths of lasers (green, red, co2, etc).

      Also the optical density for a single filter - the blocking capability of the filter - is not the same level across different wavelengths. And optical laser filters do not block the laser beam, they reduce the energy level. Prolonged exposure even with laser safety goggles will still cause eye injury; the object of the goggles is to reduce the energy long enough to account for the reflex time of turning your eyes away from a laser beam and thus avoiding eye injury. This does little good in a cockpit when someone maliciously aims a laser beam at an aircraft.

      There is also the hazard of refracted and reflected beam energy. The beam will be refracted as it strikes the cockpit glass and its energy may or may not be attenuated, and there is also the hazard of beam reflections off of objects in the cockpit. The danger of stray beams in this condition is very real and it may be near impossible - while affixed to the pilot seat via seat belt - to avoid exposure to any laser beam. There is also the remote possibility of the refraction of the glass having a focusing effect on the laser beam and exposing the pilot to higher w/cm^2 laser energy at the wrong place.

      I have never experienced a laser eye injury, but have been told in laser safety training that they are extremely painful.

  • by CodeShark (17400) <ellsworthpcNO@SPAMyahoo.com> on Thursday December 20, 2007 @02:45PM (#21767692) Homepage
    We can probably agree that at first glance, the FBI going after this couple because the pilot of the helicopter had a headache for several hours seems like using a jackhammer to swat a fly. But consider: lasing an aircraft (putting a laser on an aircraft) for any reason is a federal offense, making it the FBI's domain. [FYI the reason it is a federal offense to begin with is that the air space over the country is not considered "state property", otherwise you could have a California Aviation Administration, a Nevada Aviation administration, etc. etc. and all of the aviation systems need to work together]. Coupled with the fact that virtually everything you can do with an aircraft can have an interstate commerce connection, making it Federal vs. state anyway)

    Anyway, this has to be considered a significant offense for two reasons reasons, the first being the one they quote: disorient a pilot and you put the pilot and any one in the neighborhood of the craft in danger. Think of the response if you dropped a paint filled balloon from an overpass onto a vehicle on a busy freeway, same type of thing. The second reason is similar: because lasers are damn straight sighting mechanisms and reflect back to an observer in an electronically or optically observable manner, anything from a high powered rifle to an anti-aircraft gun or missile can be targeted on the aircraft resulting in a significantly higher probability of a hit.

    What the law can't do is say "well, there's no harm to doing ___X___" if every time someone does ___X___, other people are put at risk. Which is why "driving under the influence" is a crime even if no one got hurt. Maybe the couple doesn't deserve a huge fine and twenty years in jail. But they did the crime even inadvertently and there has to be a measurable penalty as a deterrent to other idiots doing the same thing.

    My question is, are we readers on slashdot so reactive to anything the government does that we tacitly give permission and headline space to all of the idiots of the world who get in trouble for doing what they ought to have known they shouldn't?
  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday December 20, 2007 @02:47PM (#21767748)
    I'm glad these guys were arrested and I hope they get the book thrown at them.

    I was driving along the highway one time at night 2 years ago, and a laser beam was shined into my car. For all you guys that think that the pilot is bullshitting, you guys are idiots. The laser flashed me for a split-second, and even though the laser went through the car windshield or whatever (I'm not sure where it came from) I was totally blinded. I was able to safely pull over, but had I been driving fast or in the middle of traffic, I probably could have easily killed my wife and my two kids. One eye was worse than the other but it got better, but as a precaution, my wife drove the rest of the way, but I was infuriated that this happened, and that some dumbass with a laser pointer could have killed me.

    We need laws like that so people who attempt to blind people piloting planes, helicopters, cars, or whatever go to jail and learn a good lesson.
  • by e-scetic (1003976) * on Thursday December 20, 2007 @03:30PM (#21768614)

    Sorry, not buying it. The odds of shining a narrow focus beam directly into a pilot's tiny pupils, over a great distance, likely through a floor/door/visor, etc. are just too incredible.

    I've got choppers flying around me here and I just can't see it happening. Literally. Who the hell has such good eyesight they can aim a laser that well without something like a telescope, binoculars or a viewfinder? The article doesn't say but if these aids weren't present then I'm simply not believing it.

    I know about morons shining these things at planes on final approach but those are people standing directly in the path of planes with the noses down just well enough to provide direct line of sight AND the pilots are looking in their general direction at the landing lights, so it's a bit more plausible - but still hard to believe.

    • by russotto (537200) on Thursday December 20, 2007 @03:43PM (#21768824) Journal
      The complaint doesn't allege that the pilot's eyes were illuminated. Only the cockpit. Most likely scenario, IMO, is that they were screwing around, the helicopter flew through the beam. The pilot got pissed off and tracked them down, and then embellished the complaint to make a Federal case about it. Standard scumbag police procedure.
  • I own one of these (Score:5, Informative)

    by JRHelgeson (576325) on Thursday December 20, 2007 @03:39PM (#21768766) Homepage Journal
    I've owned one of these lasers for a little over two years now. It is nothing short of amazing to hold in your hand and press the button on what is nothing more than a pen sized laser pointer that will illuminate an object over 40 miles away. When you first take hold of one of these at night, the desire to point out any and every object you can see with your naked eye is overwhelming. It takes a better man than I am to resist that temptation. Then if you have the opportunity to illuminate a moving object? It is a very natural desire, I've felt it. Its like seeing a car accident and avoiding the temptation to even look. It is easy to criticize.

    When my wife took hold of the laser, we were driving in the car in SoCal and she illuminated a mansion up on a hill and exclaimed "This thing is AWESOME!" which was one of the only times in memory she has shown avid approval of any of my "toys". Then she said "I can see why people want to shine this at flying objects."

    If you illuminate any of the reflective street signs with the laser, it is amazingly impressive. The entire sign, regardless of size, illuminates so blindingly bright that you cannot look at it. Do this at a street sign over a freeway and you could easily cause an accident.

    To avoid the temptation not to play with one of these is too great. I sympathize with this couple completely.

  • by IonOtter (629215) on Thursday December 20, 2007 @06:30PM (#21771672) Homepage
    We had this guy on our ship. A real "shipwreck" if there ever was one. He got the idea to paint the officer of the deck on the ship next to us with his laser pointer. Said officer of the deck was wearing his summer whites, and this brilliant red dot blooms on his chest. It was amazing! The OOD dropped to the deck, drew his side arm and began shouting "SNIPER ON THE PIER! SNIPER ON THE PIER!" Their ship went to security alert, the security teams were deployed and began fanning out on the ship and the pier, and then OUR ship went to security alert. By the time it all got sorted out, Seaman Shipwreck had been hauled off to the brig and later had himself the Big Chicken Dinner (Bad Conduct Discharge). So yeah, firing lasers at official vehicles, ships or planes is a good way to earn yourself a Darwin Award, either by measure of return fire or being put in prison long enough for it to no longer matter.

To be a kind of moral Unix, he touched the hem of Nature's shift. -- Shelley

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