Stiffer Laser Light Penalties Proposed In Annapolis

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Mike Schuh joined WJZ Eyewitness News as a general assignment reporter...
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ANNAPOLIS, Md. (WJZ) — Talk to pilots and they’ll tell you Maryland laws aren’t adequate after someone is caught shining a laser at a plane or chopper.

Now, as Mike Schuh reports, stiffer penalties are proposed in Annapolis.

Those who fly say it’s getting worse. Lasers, specifically the new green ones, are more powerful and much more dangerous.

“It lit up the whole cockpit. Once it hits that glass, it convexes and it will shine across the whole cockpit,” said one pilot.

Across the country, hundreds of aircrafts are hit each year. In Maryland, aircraft were hit by lasers 64 times.

“Oh, yeah, if he got you directly in the eyes, that would definitely be blinding,” said Maryland State Police Aviation Command Deputy Director Chris Lovejoy.

Blinding a pilot at night is a good way to kill people. State police pilot Chris Lovejoy was one of those 64 who were “lased” last year. While over Mt. Airy at night, relying on instruments to stay in the air, his cockpit lit up. Tuesday, he told his story in Annapolis.

Because no Maryland law directly addresses the problem, those caught are being charged with reckless endangerment. Delegate Sam Arora wants to strengthen the law, making it equivalent to second-degree assault.

“We need this law and I think when people find out that the current law says maybe a $500 fine and we’re talking about potential death, I think we are finding people in support of this bill,” Arora said.

“We need to see this sooner rather than later,” Lovejoy said.

A companion bill is expected to be introduced soon in the Senate.

The Federal Aviation Administration is also changing federal laws to allow for an $11,000 fine for spotlighting aircraft with a laser.

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