The state House of Representatives voted for pilot and public safety, approving legislation by Rep. Laura Cox to criminalize pointing a laser or directed energy device at or in the path of an aircraft.
During committee testimony, it was revealed that a Michigan State Police helicopter and three aircrafts heading to Detroit Metropolitan Airport were struck by a laser beam during a single February day. The action could have temporarily blinded the pilot and disrupted the aircraft’s navigational equipment, putting any passengers at risk and potentially leading to an accident.
“This kind of behavior may seem harmless on the ground, but could have led to a catastrophe,” said Cox, of Livonia. “When the Federal Aviation Administration reports 3,800 incidents of laser pointers striking aircraft in 2014, it’s clear we have a problem that needs to be addressed quickly.”
The House Law and Justice Committee also heard testimony from an Oakland County Sheriff’s Office pilot who detailed how a Commerce Township helicopter search led to three hits by a laser pointer.
Cox’s legislation includes prohibition of items that transmit focused electromagnetic radiation and sound disruptors from being directed at aircraft.
The House also approved partner legislation by Rep. Tom Barrett of Potterville, making the offense punishable by up to five years in prison and a fine up to $10,000.
The federal government bans the practice of directing a focused beam of energy at aircraft, but leaves enforcement to the Federal Bureau of Investigation and prosecution in federal courts. MSP, the Oakland County Sheriff’s Office, the Wayne County Airport Authority and Michigan Sheriff’s Association all supported having Cox’s bill made into state law and allowing localized enforcement and prosecution.
“Having this legislation approved by a 107-1 vote, it is clear my fellow representatives agree this is of great importance to public safety,” Cox said.
House Bills 4063 and 4064 will advance to the state Senate for consideration.