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Couple Busted For Shining Laser At Helicopter

kdawson posted more than 6 years ago | from the do-not-look-directly-into-laser-beam-with-your-remaining-eye dept.

The Courts 863

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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863 comments

Obligatory (5, Funny)

Billosaur (927319) | more than 6 years ago | (#21767328)

"Don't lase me, bro!"

Re:Obligatory (1, Troll)

r2rknot (1102517) | more than 6 years ago | (#21767600)

$250,000 and 20 years. Definitely an issue cruel and unusual punishment if they got that, imho. At best I can see them being hit with some negligence suit from the pilot from the damage caused. Unless their is a law in place preventing members of the public from illuminating aircraft in operation. If they can prove though, that the couple had the intention of causing the aircraft to crash, they may have a good reason to pursue trial.

Need a bit more background here (1)

Malevolent Tester (1201209) | more than 6 years ago | (#21767340)

Was the laser attached to a missile launcher?

500 feet and disoriented is plenty of info (1)

AHumbleOpinion (546848) | more than 6 years ago | (#21767770)

Need a bit more background here. Was the laser attached to a missile launcher?

No, there is plenty of information in the summary, let alone the article. When disorienting a pilot flying at 500 feet, and impairing his vision, a missile launcher is not needed to put human life in jeopardy. That includes the pilot and crew and the families below that may have a fuel ladened aircraft crash into their homes.

fr1st ps0t!!! (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21767342)

eleventy-one!!!1!!

What kind of laser? (1)

Danathar (267989) | more than 6 years ago | (#21767348)

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?

Re:What kind of laser? (4, Interesting)

$RANDOMLUSER (804576) | more than 6 years ago | (#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".

Re:What kind of laser? (5, Interesting)

cayenne8 (626475) | more than 6 years ago | (#21767530)

"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?

Re:What kind of laser? (5, Interesting)

Franio (964631) | more than 6 years ago | (#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.

Re:What kind of laser? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21767448)

It was a green laser.
So yes, more powerful than your run-of-the-mill red laser.

Re:What kind of laser? (2, Interesting)

nmb3000 (741169) | more than 6 years ago | (#21767468)

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 FBI is exaggerating just a bit.

Re:What kind of laser? (1)

ByOhTek (1181381) | more than 6 years ago | (#21767532)

An stove is a consumer device. Same with a toaster. Pencils and pencil sharpeners come to mind as well. I'll add knives and guns just for fun.

I can think of ways to [mis] use those all to cause hours of pain.

Re:What kind of laser? (1, Informative)

smidget2k4 (847334) | more than 6 years ago | (#21767476)

Green laser pointers are much more powerful and allow for the "trace" of the laser to be seen. They are very useful for star pointing, etc.

You don't want one shined in your eye though.
Especially when flying a helicopter.

Re:What kind of laser? (1)

Enlarged to Show Tex (911413) | more than 6 years ago | (#21767518)

These are much more powerful than a mere laser pointer.

I think they should consider themselves lucky to only be facing a fine and some time in a PMITA prison. After all, .gov could try to make the case that the two of them are terrorists and send 'em to Gitmo or something...

Re:What kind of laser? (1)

cayenne8 (626475) | more than 6 years ago | (#21767572)

"I think they should consider themselves lucky to only be facing a fine and some time in a PMITA prison. After all, .gov could try to make the case that the two of them are terrorists and send 'em to Gitmo or something..."

I wonder if it will be against the law for you to use one of these on some of the un-manned air vehicles we hear are soon to be flying our fair skys in the US? Will that qualify you as a terrorist?

Re:What kind of laser? (5, Informative)

yakumo.unr (833476) | more than 6 years ago | (#21767522)

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."

Re:What kind of laser? (2)

jollyreaper (513215) | more than 6 years ago | (#21767742)

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?

Re:What kind of laser? (1)

sm62704 (957197) | more than 6 years ago | (#21767528)

The green ones are more powerful, but it doesn't natter. You could disorient a pilot with a simple presentation pointer causeing him to crash the aircraft, perhaps right on top of you.

In soviet russia, laser points at YOU?

Re:What kind of laser? (2)

Starteck81 (917280) | more than 6 years ago | (#21767538)

I googled around and found this article comparing red vs green lasers [searchwarp.com].

From the article
Red versus Green laser pointers

The most obvious difference between green and red laser pointers is beam visibility. The human eye is most sensitive to light with a wavelength of approximately 555nm (yellow/green) which makes green lasers much more visible than red lasers. Green laser can appear to be roughly 50 times brighter than red lasers.

Re:What kind of laser? (1)

iamdrscience (541136) | more than 6 years ago | (#21767762)

It was a green laser pointer which are often brighter and (arguably) more dangerous to the human eye than the typical red laser pointers people have. That said, they are still low power enough that it probably didn't cause any real permanent damage to the pilot's eyes. What they did is still stupid though. Surely not $250,000/20-years-in-jail stupid, it was just a mistake and no real harm was done, but I'd hate to think what could happen if a pilot made a serious mistake while disoriented by one of these.

Re:What kind of laser? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21767788)

I think we need more info. It makes a big difference whether it's a normal laser or one of those frickin' lasers.

Dumb. Asses. (2, Insightful)

joetheappleguy (865543) | more than 6 years ago | (#21767358)

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:Dumb. Asses. (2, Insightful)

UbuntuDupe (970646) | more than 6 years ago | (#21767652)

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?

what were their intentions? (1)

xubu_caapn (1086401) | more than 6 years ago | (#21767368)

Nothing should happen to this couple.

Re:what were their intentions? (1)

j00r0m4nc3r (959816) | more than 6 years ago | (#21767444)

What if I removed a few stop signs around town with the intention of having some fun and showing off?

Re:what were their intentions? (1)

lyz (988147) | more than 6 years ago | (#21767454)

There are a lot more fun things you can do to get 20 years. I think they should get some punishment, but 20 years?

Re:what were their intentions? (2, Insightful)

Ngarrang (1023425) | more than 6 years ago | (#21767536)

Just because a person did not intent to do harm when harm occurred, should not protection from some form of punishment. This couple was operating a possibly dangerous device in a definitely unsafe manner. Should they get 20 years and a $250,000 fine? No. Let's reserve that for the people who had intent to harm. IMHO, they should just be fined and the lasers taken away. Our jails are already full all over the country.

Re:what were their intentions? (1)

sm62704 (957197) | more than 6 years ago | (#21767656)

In Illinois, if you get caught driving drunk you will spend at least the night in jail and afterwards be jailed and/or fined in addition. How many people can a drunk driver kill? How much property damage can a drunk driver cause?

If your laser pointer disorients a pilot and he crashes his police helicopter or worse, a passenger liner into a neighborhood how many people would it kill? How much property damage could it cause?

Seems to me that shining lasers at aircraft is a lot more dangerous than driving with a .08 BAC, and should have a lot harsher penalties.

-mcgrew

Re:what were their intentions? (4, Insightful)

Ngarrang (1023425) | more than 6 years ago | (#21767724)

From the article, they claim, "...Snow told investigating agents that she and Dooley were standing in the driveway on November 8 and "taking turns shining the laser around watching the tracers in the sky.""

If they are telling the truth, then this was a horrible accident. If they are telling a lie to protect themselves from harsher punishment, then harsher punishment they should get. Unless a third person can come forward and state that harmful intent was desired, then the judge will have to go on the sworn testimony of the two.

Re:what were their intentions? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21767566)

The path to hell is paved with (good) intentions...

Re:what were their intentions? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21767696)

What a shock that the Slashdot Anarchists have arrived. You know, the ones who mewl on and on (and on) about how the government should "stay the hell out" of everyone's business until it suits their own agenda, at which point "there ought to be a law," rigidly enforced, of course.

No, no... let me guess how you'd feel if your brother was the pilot.

In a word (0, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21767374)

bullshit

pain and discomfort for several hours? yeah, right. Did it also cause him permanent emotional scarring and mental anquish? Or give him a phobia of green light as well?

overstating the injury/damages to get the charges to stick

Re:In a word (1)

PeterM from Berkeley (15510) | more than 6 years ago | (#21767606)

Pain and discomfort for a helicopter pilot who is currently flying is a very big deal. What if he was unable to safely land the chopper? Then you would have had possible fatalities. This didn't happen this time, but negligently inflicting this type of risk on the pilot and on the general public seems like a serious crime to me.

Re:In a word (1)

cyphercell (843398) | more than 6 years ago | (#21767746)

pain and discomfort for several hours?

Regardless, the flu is worse, I don't see how "i felt bad for 2 hours" translates to $250G + 20yrs.

So what? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21767384)

Why worry before they get ordered to pay 20000? It's not gonna happen anyway.

Set an example. (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21767390)

It may seem excessive but as a pilot who's had some jerk shine a laser at me while I was on final I can say that I'm glad they caught them.

There's a lot that goes on when you're trying to land a plane and a small distraction can be disastrous.

Besides, it is a federal offense to do that kind of thing.

Good! (5, Funny)

Hatta (162192) | more than 6 years ago | (#21767396)

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.

Re:Good! (-1, Troll)

geekoid (135745) | more than 6 years ago | (#21767504)

That's right, kill the police for doing their job~ Well thought out~

Marijuana is a political and education issue.

Re:Good! (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21767774)

It is not a war on drugs its a war on personal freedom. Keep that in mind at all times. (Bill Hicks)

In fact if you want to see what the war on drugs really are just watch the history channels specials about drugs in the US.

Re:Good! (1)

jollyreaper (513215) | more than 6 years ago | (#21767678)

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.
But dude, missiles leave toxins and shrapnel and shit and harshes the environment. i hear these lasers are green, much more mellow for Mother Earth.

Re:Good! (1)

sm62704 (957197) | more than 6 years ago | (#21767716)

No, the debris from the falling police helicopter might fall on your farm and harm your crop. Wait until they land and then shoot them with a ground to ground missle.

Oh oh, I think we're both on a "no fly" list now. I'm glad, I hate flies.

w00t we R so smart (1)

arse maker (1058608) | more than 6 years ago | (#21767398)

I guess people are bored of pointing lasers in cinemas we have to do something much more intelligent like shining them in aircraft. What sort of idiot figures this is a good idea, you might as well just shoot at it. Easy to punish though, have them drive 100mph down the highway in traffic and cover their eyes and ask if they are having fun yet.

I have some doubts (1, Insightful)

bleh-of-the-huns (17740) | more than 6 years ago | (#21767430)

That an individual would have the ability to actually hit the pilot in the face with a laser (most likely a generic laser pointer) from 500 feet while the target was moving.. I mean what are the odds. That said, people who are stupid enough to even contemplate such an act do deserve what they get, assuming the description of the incident is valid, but I still have some doubts.

Re:I have some doubts (1)

arse maker (1058608) | more than 6 years ago | (#21767492)

It happens all the time, its very easy. People get shot out of the sky with slow moving bullets, now thats hard. Aiming something that travels at the speed of light is easy, they have unlimited ammo and you fire continuously so you just wave it around and you are almost guaranteed to hit.

Re:I have some doubts (1)

Lerc (71477) | more than 6 years ago | (#21767626)

Not to mention that unless the laser was tripod mounted or something any contact with a single point would be incredibly fleeting. You try holding a laser dot dot on a point by hand at 500 feet (or 150 meters in real distance).

Could happen, but the chances would be slim.

Re:I have some doubts (3, Interesting)

SLOviper (763177) | more than 6 years ago | (#21767668)

FWIW... I have a friend who was lasered (is that a word?) during one of his cargo flights. With beam dispersion as it is on consumer-grade devices, you get quite a wide beam at 500+ feet. He described it as the entire cockpit turning green, so he closed his eyes. It would have been fairly easy to look out the window and radio the authorities with the approximate location, but he chose not to. With a powerful enough laser, it could definitely do damage to someones eyes, if not at least cause disorientation - something you definitely don't want when you're flying an aircraft.

Re:I have some doubts (1)

Frenchy_2001 (659163) | more than 6 years ago | (#21767694)

You don't even need to hit him in the face, just a nice reflection on the windshield of the copter would be enough to distract or even blind him.
Some of those green lasers ARE quite powerful. You can get the low power ones (http://www.wickedlasers.com/lasers/Elite_Series-69-3.html

150mW is nothing to disregard. Don't shine it at someone's face...

Idiots (1)

Diomedes01 (173241) | more than 6 years ago | (#21767440)

These people are idiots. However, it seems like it would be very difficult to prove intent during prosecution.

Re:Idiots (1)

sm62704 (957197) | more than 6 years ago | (#21767802)

You wouldn't need to prove intent, any more than you must prove that you intended to drive drunk. Like driving drunk, it's a felony to shine a laser at an aircraft whether you intended to or not. It's also far more stupid and dangerous than driving drunk.

And the charge was... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21767442)

blatant stupidity and reckless disregard. There should be a price for stupid, rude, reckless behavior.

They hit a pilot (2, Interesting)

geekoid (135745) | more than 6 years ago | (#21767458)

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.

Re:They hit a pilot (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21767726)

"Obviously excluding vehicles of war."

The Geneva Convention prohibits the use of blinding weapons.

Re:They hit a pilot (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21767778)

Wait, if they hit a helicopter pilot in the eyes at 500 feet, shouldn't the government try to recruit them to be sniepr spotters or something instead? Shooting someone moving very fast in the eyes with a laser pointer at 500 feet without the aid of any kind of telescopic device is nothing short of amazing.

This is what they used (1, Informative)

Sciros (986030) | more than 6 years ago | (#21767460)

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.

Re:This is what they used (1)

$RANDOMLUSER (804576) | more than 6 years ago | (#21767524)

Did you bother to READ what you posted a link to?

* 11 times brighter than red laser pointers
* Projection range up to 10,000 feet, 5mw output power

Re:This is what they used (1)

Sciros (986030) | more than 6 years ago | (#21767608)

Did I say it's impossible to hit an aircaft with it or something? I said it's expensive.

blender (1)

Bazards (1081167) | more than 6 years ago | (#21767470)

I wouldn't want to mess with a helicopter pilot. If he got disoriented enough, thats a giant blender coming out of the sky at you.

Don't lase me bro! (2, Insightful)

snarfies (115214) | more than 6 years ago | (#21767472)

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.

Yes they shoudl be punished (2, Insightful)

geekoid (135745) | more than 6 years ago | (#21767666)

but more then if the accidentally shot someone with a gun?

First time offense? 5-10G and a year of community service.

Make it hurt, but don't destroy them.

I had a laser shined in my eye (1, Redundant)

sm62704 (957197) | more than 6 years ago | (#21767474)

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 retina I couldn't see out of that eye for several hours. A passenger liner crash would kill more passengers than a helicopter with a couple of cops in it, and as it's bigger and has lots more fuel could kill more people on the ground.

If you're going to shine lasers at cops, do it on the ground. It will likely be the last thing you ever do, as they'll just figure you've got a laser sighted gun shoot you dead.

Re:I had a laser shined in my eye (1)

geekoid (135745) | more than 6 years ago | (#21767582)

Ignoring the statement that a blinded pilot would crash a jumbo jet. (They wouldn't)

The question in my mind is, what kind of LASER was this? A normal hand pen pointer laser is not going to blind someone at 500+ feet. I have doubts that someone could even hit a person in a helicopter in the eys if they where trying.

They talk about 'illuminating' the cockpit. Something else a pen laser isn't going to do at 500 feet.

Re:I had a laser shined in my eye (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21767688)

A passenger liner crash would kill more passengers than a helicopter with a couple of cops in it, and as it's bigger and has lots more fuel could kill more people on the ground.
What if the helicopter went out of control and hit a passenger liner?
Or an apartment building?
Or your house?

Excessive (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21767484)

Shouldn't the punishment fit the crime? Up to 20 years in prison and $250,000 fine? Murderers get away with less for manslaughter.

How big was that laser? (1, Interesting)

Spinlock_1977 (777598) | more than 6 years ago | (#21767494)

I don't know much about lasers (or anything, really), but 500 feet through surface-level air has gotta difuse a small laser at least somewhat. Pain and headaches for two hours? Come on! Somebody, puhleeze do the math. That pilot has gotta be lying, no? Or maybe the couple was using the new Lego Laser their son got last Christmas - don't they put out a few gigawatts?

Re:How big was that laser? (1)

cdrguru (88047) | more than 6 years ago | (#21767594)

My green laser pointer is rated for 25,000 feet visibility. The beam is collimated - it does not disperse.

Re:How big was that laser? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21767610)

Green lasers are typically much more powerful than those $5 keychain laser pointers you seem to be thinking of. This one http://www.thinkgeek.com/gadgets/lights/8a39/ [thinkgeek.com] could do that kind of damage easily. Still don't see why the fuck this is on /. though.

Re:How big was that laser? (1)

cavtroop (859432) | more than 6 years ago | (#21767622)

take a look at some of the more powerful green lasers out there (several are reviewed on the website in my sig, below)

Some have ranges of 30+ miles - 500' is nothing for these lasers. They are truly awesome, but to shine one at an aircraft is just about the height of stupidity.

Re:How big was that laser? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21767644)

I don't know much about lasers (or anything, really)

Should've stopped there.

Vegas... years ago (1)

SoulMaster (717007) | more than 6 years ago | (#21767498)

I remember the original Merlin at the Excalibur in Las Vegas had a problem with lasers shooting into the eyes of the pilots taking off from McCarren. That was oversight in design though...

If there is REALLY a person on this planet who thinks that pilots eyes are fun to laser, they just need to be executed for stupidity.

laser (1)

Dolmangar (601769) | more than 6 years ago | (#21767514)

Even a low powered laser when it hits the cockpit of a helicopter (especially at night) will illuminate every scratch in the plexi and even if it doesn't hit the pilot in the eye (which can blind) which makes it impossible to see. Flying a helicopter is very demanding (yes I have my PPL helicopter) and at night the demands are even higher. Remember those aircraft are millions of dollars, and might have four people onboard. On top of the damage you'd cause on the ground by causing a crash. These guys have a hard enough time doing their job, which might be chasing a car thief, or flying you to the hospital after a car accident. You'd think common sense would prevent this, but hey I guess that's out of the question.

Re:laser (1)

smooth wombat (796938) | more than 6 years ago | (#21767768)

You'd think common sense would prevent this, but hey I guess that's out of the question.


When you say common sense, you mean the same common sense that people have when they weave in and out of traffic while talking on their cell phone, or drive with one hand at the bottom of the steering wheel while the other is tucked behind the drivers seat, or drive around signs that say "Road Closed" while water rushes over the street, or cause manufacturers to have to put a warning label on hair dryers which tell you not to use while in the shower, or standing up while on a roller coaster in front of the sign which tells you to remain seated, or telling someone as you point a gun at them and pull the trigger, "Don't worry, it's not loaded"?

Yeah, I know. Common sense should take precedence in all the above situations but people being what they are, common sense doesn't usually come into play.

Laws != Justice (5, Insightful)

jellomizer (103300) | more than 6 years ago | (#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.

Re:Laws != Justice (1)

friend.ac (1071626) | more than 6 years ago | (#21767800)

You might find that the word UPTO used within the text...

So UPTO 20 years in jail
and UPTO 250,000 fine.

For a first offense and if the parties plead guilty then the judge would probably give them the fine that you've said..

Do it several times, be an ass.. and you'll be at the top of the UPTO scale..

LED's ARE NOT LASERS! (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21767592)

Light emitting diodes are not really lasers. Lasers are actually still pretty intricate devices. An actual laser that pumps states and then stimulates emissions in a purified gas (i.e. actual lasers) are big expensive items that are kept in physical chemistry and physics labs. They have to be warmed up for hours at a time. An LED is just a flashlight with a somewhat narrowed set of emitted frequencies.

Umm.. (5, Insightful)

Hangin10 (704729) | more than 6 years ago | (#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.

Why is this in "your rights online"?? (2, Insightful)

posterlogo (943853) | more than 6 years ago | (#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?

Why... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21767604)

Why is this your rights online?

BS (1)

CrackPipePls (1205568) | more than 6 years ago | (#21767616)

Sounds more and more like a plot to ban lasers for whatever reasons

I mean comon, we're talking about a small hand held laser device, not some computer guided auto target locking laser,
the average person will have problem aiming it at something stationary 50 ft away due to the natural shaking of the hand, let alone a flying target 500 ft away
that's why it takes a long time to master marksmanship, this is not something human can do naturally
looking at some of the other related news, somehow everybody seems to be able to aim at pilot's eyes from long distance
something smells fishy here

I'm amazed... (1)

TwoEdge77 (92704) | more than 6 years ago | (#21767640)

that some of you even think it's even remotely okay in some circumstances to point a laser at anyone. You take technology as common place and think even a small laser couldn't hurt.

I'm not even going to comment on the "...better that it's a copter and not a commercial plane".

Filtering (3, Interesting)

SWad (454879) | more than 6 years ago | (#21767658)

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

Re:Filtering (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21767754)

Yeah, that'll work. Well maybe for one particular brand of laser pen or whatever. No two of these things outputs exactly the same frequency.

I can see it now, a bunch of criminals running around in bright green camouflage.

This is /. worthy news WHY? an observation (5, Insightful)

CodeShark (17400) | more than 6 years ago | (#21767692)

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?

Kids these days... (1)

butterwise (862336) | more than 6 years ago | (#21767700)

Couple Busted For Shining Laser At Helicopter
I remember a time when a fun-loving couple would spend an evening out at "Lovers Lane" instead of flashing passing whirlygigs...

The green lazer statuette (1)

dubsaves (1205980) | more than 6 years ago | (#21767718)

Interesting to find out what legal loophole the FBI/US attorney used. The don't shine weird stuff at flying objects law! I agree they should be fined, what if the chopper crashed or something? Something slightly more dangerous than doing something similar to a car. How did they get caught? That's just plain weird. The max penalty is outrageous though.

I had a laser shined at me while driving (4, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#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.

let me get this straight (0, Flamebait)

blhack (921171) | more than 6 years ago | (#21767776)

These people are being punished, not because they actually caused a problem, but because they COULD have caused one? that problem being the helicopter crashing?

That makes perfect sense!
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