Laws on laser pointers

Updated March 23, 2017

Laser pointers are small lasers that project a small spot of coloured light onto an object of interest. While most pointers are used for presentations or playing with kittens, there are some dangers associated with the pointers that have led to strict regulations in some countries. Never stare directly into the light projected from a laser pointer as it may cause serious eye damage.


The United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) classifies a laser pointer as a laser with an output power of less than 5 milliwatts. It is illegal for a company to market or sell a laser that is more powerful as a laser pointer. Those lasers that are above 5 milliwatts in power must be sold with numerous safety features and all lasers sold must be registered with the FDA no matter how strong they are. Failure to comply with these regulations can lead to fines and jail time.

Lasers and Vehicles

In November 2009, a California man was sent to prison for 2 ½ years followed by 3 years of supervised release for interfering with pilots by shining a laser beam at the cockpit. Interfering with a pilot using any method is a federal offence. For this reason, it is best not to shine a laser pointer anywhere near an airport or at any driver or pilot of any vehicle whatsoever. In most states, it is also illegal to shine the laser into a moving motor vehicle and targeting the driver or other occupants.

Lasers and Law Enforcement

In the state of Utah, it is illegal for a person to shine a laser pointer into the eyes of a law enforcement officer. The crime is classified as a class C misdemeanour which can lead to some jail time. While it is not technically a crime to shine the laser in the eyes of someone who you do not know is a cop in the state, it is best not to take chances and shine the light in anybody's eyes .

Laser Safety Act

The death of a police officer in New York City prompted the creation of this law which has been instrumental in prompting similar regulations in New York City, Washington and Tennessee. The law states that anybody who projects a laser at another person, while committing a violent felony, shall receive an additional high-classification felony that may lead to several years of imprisonment. The law also has a similar provision to the Utah law, as people who point lasers at police officers can also receive a fine and imprisonment.

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About the Author

Bryan Cohen has been a writer since 2001 and is a graduate of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill with a double degree in English and dramatic art. His writing has appeared on various online publications including his personal website Build Creative Writing Ideas.