Laser scopes or laser pointers are small battery-powered handheld laser diode devices that emit a narrow low-powered laser. These devices are often used as pointers for educational and business visual presentations. Different colors have different levels of intensity. However, despite laser pointers emitting low-intensity lights, these can still post hazards and risks. Although the chances of total blindness are slim, lasers can still damage the eye in many ways, like partial blindness or vision deterioration. Aside from causing visual impairment, pointing a laser directly towards someone's eyes can also lead to accidents resulting in unnecessary injuries, if not death. To discourage people from maliciously using laser pointers with the intent of causing other people harms, California enacted PC 417.25 and PC 417.26
California Penal Code PC 417.25
California Penal Code PC 417.25 is the law that penalizes the malicious act of pointing or aiming laser pointers or scopes in other people's eyes. The statute declares that every person who, except in self-defense, aims or points a laser scope or a laser pointer at another person in a threatening manner with the specific intent to cause a reasonable person fear of bodily harm is guilty of a misdemeanor, punishable by imprisonment in a county jail for up to 30 days. For purposes of this code, the laser scope does not need to be attached to a firearm.
PC 417.25 also defined laser scopes and laser pointers as:
As used in this code, “laser scope” means a portable battery-powered device capable of being attached to a firearm and capable of projecting a laser light on objects at a distance.
As used in this code, “laser pointer” means any hand-held laser beam device or demonstration laser product that emits a single point of light amplified by the stimulated emission of radiation that is visible to the human eye.
California Penal Code PC 417.26
PC 417.25 is aimed at civilians using laser pointers and scopes on other civilians. However, when the civilians start using the lasers against the law's officers, PC 417.26 plays into action. The code states that any person who aims or points a laser scope as defined in subdivision (b) of Section 417.25, or a laser pointer, as defined in subdivision (c) of that section, at a peace officer with the specific intent to cause the officer apprehension or fear of bodily harm and who knows or reasonably should know that the person at whom he or she is aiming or pointing is a peace officer, is guilty of a misdemeanor punishable by imprisonment in a county jail for a term not exceeding six months.
Penalties for Aiming or Pointing Laser Pointers and Scopes
Violating PC 417.25 is a California misdemeanor. Misdemeanors are offenses more serious compared to an infraction but less severe as opposed to felonies. However, as opposed to the commonly longer incarceration period for most misdemeanor charges, PC 417.25 violators are punished with up to thirty (30) days' worth of prison time.
However, for PC 2417.25 cases, though still charged as a misdemeanor, the penalty now closely resembles the common misdemeanor punishments. The violator will be facing up to six (6) months of prison time in the county jail. Both convictions will be reflected on a violator's criminal records.
When facing accusations about maliciously pointing laser devices to people, a good defense lawyer might include some of the following conditions for the defendant's case.
- The defendant's actions were unintentional,
- The defendant acted out of self-defense,
- The defendant was coerced to confess, or
- No laser scope/pointer was found on the defendant,
Unintentional – The statute declared that it is only unlawful to point laser pointers/scopes at a person when it was done with a willful intent of causing harm.
Self-defense – The statute declared that it is not unlawful to point laser pointers/scopes at a person when it was done out of self-defense.
Coerced confession – The defendant was forced to confess to a crime he/she did not commit.
No laser device found – For a defendant to be guilty, it must be proven that he/she did, in fact, use the laser pointer that is said to have been maliciously used.
- PC 247.5 – Malicious discharge of a laser at an aircraft
- PC 248 – Using lights to interfere with aircraft operations
- PC 33410 – Possession of a silencer
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