Laser Pointer Laws and Offenses in New Jersey
Weapons Lawyers serving Bergen County and NJ Statewide
In the state of New Jersey, possession of a laser pointer is not illegal in and of itself. Moreover, with the exception of a few usages discussed below, operating a laser pointer is not prohibited. To that end, it would be nonsensical to completely bar the possession or use of laser pens. The device and its corresponding beam of light is not necessarily harmful if pointed at an individual. Also, like many other gadgets and tools, the device has a benign and useful application. For instance, a pair of scissors has a useful and harmless purpose. However, if used improperly and even worse, with a malice intent, a pair of scissors can be dangerous. The same applies to laser pointers and as such, there are a few laws that criminalize their unlawful use in New Jersey. If you find yourself charged with a weapons offense for illegally pointing a laser, assaulting someone with a laser pointer, or another laser pointer-related crime, New Jersey does not look kindly of these types of offenses and you should engage an experienced weapons attorney at your early possible convenience to discuss your rights and your defense.
The talented weapons defense lawyers at the Tormey Law Firm LLC represent clients charged with criminal offenses involving laser devices and a broad range of other guns and weapons in Hackensack, Passaic, Hoboken, Woodbridge, Union, Newark, and Parsippany. If you are in need of personalized legal guidance about a weapons matter anywhere in New Jersey, contact our offices at (201)-614-2474 for immediate assistance. Our attorneys provide consultations absolutely free of charge. We are passionate about serving as aggressive defense advocates and resources for clients dealing with legal issues involving guns, prohibited weapons and devices, and technically lawful items that turn into crimes by the manner in which they are used throughout the state of NJ.
What is a Laser Pointer?
A laser pointer or laser pen can be described as a small handheld device, in the shape of a pen or pencil, that emits a beam of light for the purpose of highlighting something of interest. Many people have probably seen such devices utilized at work during meetings and demonstrations. Also, anyone who owns a pet cat or knows someone with cats has likely watched the instrument used to sign the laser on the floor and wall in order to play with the feline.
Federal Law on Pointing a Laser
To start, there is actually a federal law that prohibits the aiming of a laser pointer at aircraft. Under the United State Criminal Code, specifically, Title 18, chapter 2, section 39A, any person who knowingly aims the beam of a laser pointer at an aircraft in the jurisdiction of the United States, or at the flight path of such an aircraft, shall be subject to a fine or imprisoned for up to five years. Nevertheless, there are a few exceptions built into the federal code. Explicitly, the statute reads that authorized individuals such as members of the Federal Aviation Administration, Department of the Defense, Department of Homeland Security, may shine a laser pointer at aircrafts. Also, a laser beam may be utilized as a signaling device to send an emergency distress signal.
New Jersey Criminal Laws that Apply to Laser Pointers
Using a Laser Pointer to Interfere with Transportation
The Garden State has a similar law to the federal one. In the NJ Criminal Code, under N.J.S.A. 2C:33-14, it is unlawful for a person to purposely or knowingly shine, point, or focus a laser beam upon a person operating any vehicle. Additionally, the statute goes on to read that a vehicle shall include buses, light rails, trains, boats, ferries, and airplanes. In sum, criminal law prohibits the pointing of a laser beam at anyone trying to operate any form or means of transportation. The statute is designed to avoid serious accidents and if one occurs, to punish the perpetrator.
Violating the statute and illegally pointing a laser pointer will expose a person to several forms of sanctions and punishments, depending on the severity of the circumstances. The simple aiming or shining of the laser beam is a disorderly persons offense. As a result, the defendant is facing fines up to $1,000 and potentially, six months in jail. However, if someone is injured or if there is property damage, the severity of the charge and thus, the corresponding penalties increase. For instance, if a person suffers any bodily injury or experiences a pecuniary loss between $500 and $2,000, the defendant will be found guilty of fourth degree crime. In turn, he or she could be fined up to $10,000 and sentenced to 18 months in prison. Furthermore, if an individual suffers significant bodily injury or experiences more than $2000 in damages, the defendant will be charged with a crime of the third degree and consequently, subject to a $15,000 fine and a prison sentence between three to five years.
Aggravated Assault with a Laser Device
A laser pointer can be utilized in connection with a firearm. The device is generally not referred to as a laser pointer but rather a site. The instrument is utilized to assist with the accurate firing of the weapon. More specifically, the site emits a beam of light at the target, which enables the user of the gun to better judge where the firearm is pointing and where the round will ultimately end up. Again, similar to laser pointers, sites are not outright illegal. However, if used improperly, the usage can be criminally punished.
The controlling statute is located under New Jersey’s aggravated assault statute, which is codified under N.J.S.A. 2C:12-1b(11). The law states a person will be found guilty of a crime of the third degree if he or she uses or activates a laser sighting system or device against a law enforcement officer acting in the performance of the officer’s duties while in uniform or exhibiting evidence of the officer’s authority. In short, the statute was enacted to prohibit residents from giving police officers the impression that a firearm is being pointed at them. As stated above, a crime of the third degree carries with it a fine of $15,000 and exposes the defendant to a possible prison term between three to five years.
What to do if you are charged with a laser pointer offense in NJ, Defenses
First and utmost, you should seek legal counsel from a knowledgeable criminal defense lawyer before saying anything to police or making any decisions as to how to proceed with your case. As outlined above, the underlying offense is a criminal charge and therefore, if convicted, you will have a criminal record. Moreover, if someone was injured or if there was property damage, or if the incident involved a police officer, the charge means you will be facing prison time. No case is the same so no one can simply provide a blanket statement and script to follow to avoid criminal liability. With that said, in most cases, the strongest defense is that the defendant did not act with a criminal intent.
For any laser pointer type of charge, the State must prove, beyond a reasonable doubt, that the individual used the device in an illegal manner. Again, simply possessing the instrument is not illegal and using the device is not outright unlawful. Thus, if the Defense can reasonably show that the defendant was not trying to operate the pointer for an unlawful purpose, he or she may be acquitted. And there may be other strategies that apply specifically to the evidence that the prosecution intends to use against you. What you need now is to have your case thoroughly evaluated by an experienced attorney who can find the most effective defenses and ways to fight the case and potentially beat the charges or minimize the penalties associated with a conviction.
Contact Laser Pointing Defense Attorneys in Hackensack, Morristown, Newark, New Brunswick, NJ
If you or someone you love has been charged with a laser pointer related offense in New Jersey, get dedicated help by contacting our office at (201)-614-2474. Our seasoned weapons defense attorneys assist clients with laser pointing and many other guns and weapons crimes throughout the state. We offer free consultations around the clock so please do not hesitate to reach out with your questions.