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PC 417.25 & 417.26: Aim a Laser Pointer to Cause Fear or Harm: Law & Defense

Information on the crime of aiming a laser pointer to cause fear or harm is found at California penal code section 417.25 and 417.26. The following is a summary of the law, punishment, and common defenses related to PC 417.25 and PC 417.26. For further information on PC 417.25 or PC 417.26, contact our criminal defense lawyers for a free consultation.


The Laws


There are basically three laws that cover laser pointer crimes: 1) aim a laser pointer to cause fear or harm (PC 417.25(a)), 2) aim a laser pointer at a peace officer to cause fear or harm (PC 417.26(a)), and aim a laser pointer at a peace officer to cause fear or harm with a prior conviction for PC 417.26(a) (PC 417.26(b)).


In addition, there are penalty enhancements that may be added to any crime where serious bodily injury is caused, such as PC 12022.7(a) [Great bodily injury enhancement that can add up to three years of incarceration to any criminal charge]. For more information, see Penalty Enhancements to Criminal Conduct.


PC 417.25(a) Law: Every person who… aims or points a laser scope, or a laser pointer, at another person in a threatening manner, and with the specific intent to cause a reasonable person fear of bodily harm, is guilty of aiming a laser pointer or laser scope with the intent to cause fear or harm (PC 417.25(a) Abbrev.).


PC 417.26(a) Law: Any person who aims or points a laser scope, or a laser pointer, at a peace officer, with the specific intent to cause the peace officer apprehension or fear of bodily harm, and who knows, or reasonably should know, that the person at whom she is aiming or pointing the laser is a peace officer, is guilty of aiming a laser pointer or laser scope at a peace officer with intent to cause fear or harm (PC 417.26(a) Abbrev.).


PC 417.26(b) Law: Any person who aims or points a laser scope, or a laser pointer, at a peace officer, with the specific intent to cause the officer apprehension or fear of bodily harm, and who knows or reasonably should know that the person at whom she is aiming or pointing the laser is a peace officer, and who also has previously been convicted of PC 417.26(a) or (b), is guilty of aiming a laser pointer or laser scope at a peace officer with intent to cause fear or harm with a prior and with a prior conviction of PC 417.26(a) (PC 417.26(b) Abbrev.).


Laser Scope Defined: A laser scope, for purposes of PC 417.25(a) and PC 417.26 crimes is defined as a portable battery-powered device capable of being attached to a firearm and capable of projecting a laser light on objects at a distance (PC 417.25(b)). A laser scope does not need to be attached to a firearm in order for PC 417.25(a) or PC 417.26 to apply.


Laser Pointer Defined: A laser pointer, for purposes of PC 417.25(a) and PC 417.26 crimes is defined as a hand-held laser beam device, or demonstration laser product, that emits a single point of light amplified by the stimulated emission of radiation that is visible to the human eye (PC 417.25(b)).


Note: A laser or laser pointer is not the same as a high-powered flashlight or a light that is directed to a singular point (beam). A laser is an amplified light, which is usually focused into a single point (laser beam) and can illuminate without light diffusion at very far distances; a laser pointer is a device that amplifies light and directs that light into a singular point (laser beam). Most laser pointers direct the laser beam in a single direction so as to focus the light; however, the fact that a device focuses light in a single direction or point does not make that device a laser beam. In order to qualify as a laser scope or laser pointer, the light produced by the device must be amplified by stimulation of radiation (Light Amplification by Stimulated Emissions of Radiation).


The Punishments


The crime of aiming a laser scope or a laser pointer at another person with the intent to cause fear or harm is charged as a misdemeanor. There are some crime that involve laser pointers that are charged as infractions, but those crimes do not involve the attempt to cause fear or harm to another person with the laser. These infraction crimes include: Unlawful sale of a laser pointer to a person under the age of eighteen (PC 417.27(a), harass or annoy another person with a laser pointer (PC 417.27(c)), and more.


PC 417.25(a) Jail Sentence: The crime of aiming a laser scope or laser pointer at another person to cause fear or harm is charged as a misdemeanor. If found guilty of PC 417.25(a), the defendant could face up to thirty (30) days in the county jail, among other penalties.


PC 417.26(a) Jail Sentence: The crime of aiming a laser scope or laser pointer at a peace officer with the intent to cause fear or harm is charged as a misdemeanor. If found guilty of PC 417.26(a), the defendant could face up to one hundred eighty (180) days in the county jail, among other penalties.


PC 417.26(b) Jail Sentence: The crime of second offense, or more, of aiming a laser scope or laser pointer at a peace officer with the intent to cause fear or harm is charged as a misdemeanor. If found guilty, of PC 417.26(b), the defendant could face up to one (1) year in the county jail, among other penalties.


Probation Sentence: A probation sentence is a term of supervision, as opposed to a jail sentence. Probation sentences are allowed in both PC 417.25(a) and PC 417.26 cases; however, a probation sentence is not guaranteed. Whether or not the district attorney or judge is amenable to a probation sentence for the defendant depends on several factors, including the disposition of any plea bargain between the district attorney and the defendant, the defendant’s criminal history, the harm cause to any victim(s), and more.


Terms of Probation: Probation sentences include terms of probation that must be obeyed by the defendant. If the terms of probation are not obeyed by the defendant then the defendant could be found in violation of probation. A violation of probation conviction could cause further punishment for the defendant, including the termination of probation and a sentence to actual jail. The terms of a probation sentence in any aiming a laser scope or laser pointer crime will include, but will not be limited to, the following: violate no law (misdemeanor or felony), do not possess a laser device, pay fines, pay restitution (if applicable), and possibly serve a jail or work release sentence.


Probation Classification: Probation sentences for PC 417.25(a) and PC 417.26 convictions is usually classified as informal, which means that the defendant’s probation is monitored by the court and not by a probation officer. In some cases, the defendant may be placed on formal probation, even in a misdemeanor case. A formal probation sentence means that the defendant’s probation is monitored by a probation officer.


Alternating Sentencing: A probation sentence term can include a term for incarceration; however, when the court orders incarceration as part of a probation sentence, that incarceration may usually be served alternatively on work release or house arrest. See Work Release for further information.


Diversion Sentence: A diversion sentence is similar to a probation sentence in that both types of sentences have terms that must be completed by the defendant; however, after a diversion sentence is complete, the defendant’s criminal case is dismissed, whereas after a probation sentence is complete, the defendant’s case is not necessarily dismissed unless that case is subsequently expunged.


Essentially, diversion means to divert, or go around criminal prosecution. To have a PC 417.25(a) or PC 417.26 case diverted the defendant will be required to complete conditions of diversion, such as commit no crime for a certain amount of time, pay a fine, attend a class, pay restitution to the victim(s), if any, and serve community service.

Note: A diversion sentence is a better option for most defendants in many cases. This is because a diversion sentence has less negative impact on a defendant’s professional license (i.e. doctor, dentist, lawyer, etc.), and military service. Whether or not the defendant qualifies for a diversion sentence, or is even offered a diversion sentence from the district attorney or the judge, depends on several factors, including whether or not the defendant has been placed on diversion in the past, the defendant’s criminal history, the harm caused to victim(s), if any, and more. Also, it is not always the best option to simply plead guilty to an allegation just because the district attorney offers any particular penalty. Always contact a criminal defense attorney before pleading not guilty, guilty, no contest, or not guilty by reason of insanity in any criminal case. To learn more about diversion, see Diversion in Criminal Court.


Work Release & House Arrest: Work release is an out-of-custody manual labor sentence. House arrest is an order to stay at home outside work hours. A house arrest order is monitored by a GPS ankle monitor that is operated either by the county, or by an independent service contractor. Work release and house arrest punishments are common alternatives to an actual jail sentence in PC 417.25(a) and PC 417.26 cases, especially when the defendant is granted a probation sentence. Community service is another manual labor punishment option in some cases. Community service can include working with a local humane society, the county morgue, or any other service that best fits the court’s goal of punishment and rehabilitation. For further information, see Alternatives to Jail Sentencing.


Additional Punishment: In addition to a possible jail or probation sentence that the defendant could face after a criminal conviction for aiming a laser in violation of PC 417.25(a) or PC 416.26, the defendant could face any of the following penalties: Loss of the right to own firearm for ten years, loss of the privilege to practice in a profession (suspension, revocation, or ineligibility of a professional license), loss of the eligibility to enter into the military, denial of reentry or deportation from the United States (immigration cases), court fines and fees, restitution to the victim(s), restraining orders (criminal protective orders), orders to be booked into jail (if the defendant was not already booked and processed), civil lawsuit for damages caused to victims, and more.


The Defenses


The most common defenses used against PC 417.25(a) and PC 417.26 criminal charges is undoubtedly self-defense, defense of others, mistake of fact, statute of limitations (one year from the date of incident), insufficient evidence, illegal search and seizure, and coerced confessions.


Note: Every laser scope or laser pointer violation is different; therefore, the defense to every PC 417.25(a) or PC 417.26 case is different. With that said, the most common of the defenses incorporated in these types of cases is probably self-defense. A laser scope and a laser pointer both produce intensely focused beams of light that can disorient or blind an attacker if the light is pointed at the attacker's eyes. Blindness can be temporary or permanent depending on the strength of the laser and the duration of focus of the laser beam into the attacker’s eye(s). In some situations, the laser beam is strong enough to cause actual damage to the retina of an attacker’s eye, even when the duration of the focus of the light is short. To use the self-defense option in these cases the defendant must usually show that she purposefully pointed the laser into another person’s eye, but only for the purpose of defending herself, or others, from a greater harm (affirmative defense).


To learn more about the crime of aiming a laser scope or laser pointer at another person with the intent to cause fear or harm, or PC 417.25(a) and PC 417.26 crimes, contact our criminal defense lawyers. Our lawyers are available seven days a week to assist you. We have Spanish speaking lawyers available and there is no charge for a first-time in-office consultation. Call today!


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