And it's also a federal offense. Federal prosecutors charged Rogers with violating 18 U.S.C. section 39A, which criminalizes "knowingly aim[ing] the beam of a laser pointer at an aircraft" in the United States.
Rogers at first denied that he knew the laser hit the aircraft. Then he denied knowing it was dangerous. Then he admitted he knew it was illegal. That doesn't work when it's the FBI you're talking to.
How Much Time for Recklessly Endangering an Aircraft?
The heart of the appeal was about a sentencing enhancement. After Rogers pleaded guilty to pointing the laser, the sentencing judge imposed a nine-level sentencing enhancement for recklessly endangering the safety of an aircraft, for a sentence of 36 months.
Calling it a "close question," the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit affirmed the sentence, noting that Rogers knew the risk of his conduct and that the sentencing judge's decision was not clear error under the guidelines.
- United States v. Rogers (FindLaw's Cases and Codes)
- U.S. Laws for Lasers and Pointers (LaserPointySafety.com)
- Man Points Laser at Police Helicopter, Gets 2 Years in Prison (FindLaw's Blotter)