Bill would criminalize pointing lasers

People who intentionally point lasers at aircraft in Louisiana could soon face state fines and prison time.

The Louisiana House approved in a 82-4 vote Tuesday House Bill 1029 as altered by the Senate.

The Senate version of the proposed law would also ban the use of drones, unmanned aircraft systems, for surveillance of certain “targeted facilities,” including chemical manufacturers and nuclear sites. The provision resurrected a Senate bill that died in a House committee earlier in the session.

HB1029 passed the Senate in a 35-0 vote last week.

The measure now goes to Gov. Bobby Jindal for approval.

HB1029 sets penalties for pointing lasers at aircraft at five years in prison and a $2,000 fine for a first offense and up to 10 years in prison and $4,000 fine for subsequent offenses.

Violations for drone use would be punishable by up to six months in prison and a $500 fine for a first offense. Subsequent offenses could land up to a year in prison and a $2,000 fine.

In February, the Federal Bureau of Investigation said it was seeing increased reports of people pointing lasers at aircraft. According to the FBI, there were 3,960 laser incidents reported in 2013 — nearly 11 a day on average. Thousands more go unreported, according to the FBI.

“Shining a laser into the cockpit of an aircraft can temporarily blind a pilot, jeopardizing the safety of everyone on board,” the Federal Aviation Administration’s Michael Huerta said in the FBI’s alert on the issue.

On the federal level, interfering with the operation of an aircraft can be punishable by up to 20 years in prison and a $250,000 fine, and the FAA can additionally fine up to $11,000 for each laser pointing incident.

There was no debate on the bill Tuesday before House passage.

Follow Elizabeth Crisp on Twitter @elizabethcrisp. For more coverage of the Louisiana Legislature, follow our Politics blog at http://blogs.theadvocate.com/politicsblog .