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Washington Man Facing Charges After Pointing Laser at Coast Guard Helicopter

Posted by Steve Karimi | May 22, 2019 | 0 Comments

Federal authorities arrested Randall Muck, of Port Angeles, Washington, on allegations of pointing a laser at a government aircraft. A grand jury indicted Muck for pointing the light at a helicopter being operated by the U.S. Coast Guard. U.S. Attorney Brian Moran says the defendant also was questioned by the FBI and had made false statements. The helicopter crew noticed the green laser as they approached Air Station Port Angeles and thankfully the helicopter was safely landed.

Incident Details

The aircrew remained on the ground while investigators searched the area near 4th and Hill Street in Port Angeles. These lasers are similar to those that would be used to identify a target when using a firearm. Commander Mark Hiigel explained that these incidents are taken seriously. The light emitted is capable of creating “glare, afterimage, flash blindness, and temporary loss of night vision.” Coast Guard policies require that any mission be aborted if the crew encounters a laser pointed in their direction.

Federal Law

The case against Muck will be heard in a federal court and the two charges could result in a maximum of five years in prison and a $250,000 fine. According to 18 U.S. Code Section 39A, the offense of pointing a laser at an aircraft, or in the aircraft's area of flight, is a felony offense.

Washington State Law

State legislators acknowledge that lasers have become more affordable as technology has advanced. They implemented a law due to the potential of using these devices to “intimidate or harass.” Members of law enforcement obviously are not taking these acts lightly and will arrest offenders.

First Degree Offense

The provisions of RCW 9A.49.020 prohibit “knowingly and maliciously” discharging a laser beam at members of law enforcement. It is a first-degree offense charged as a class C felony to use the laser in a way that appears as if it is being emitted from a “sighting device or system.” In addition to members of law enforcement, pointing a laser at a pilot, member of a fire department, or operator of a bus or transit vehicle, is also prohibited.

Second Degree Offense

Unlawfully discharging the beam of a laser may also be a second-degree criminal offense that is charged as a gross misdemeanor. This applies when someone “knowingly or maliciously” points the beam at another person for the purposes of intimidation or those who are driving a motor vehicle at the time. The chart below shows the maximum penalties that may be imposed for both levels of the offense.

First Degree: Class C Felony

Up to Five Years in Prison

Up to a $10,000 fine

Second Degree: Gross Misdemeanor

Up to 364 Days in County Jail

Up to a $5,000 fine

King County Lawyer Defends Felony Charges

Have you been charged with a crime in Washington State? The Karimi Law Firm has spent years representing clients facing allegations of criminal activity. A criminal conviction can result in harsh consequences including lengthy periods of incarceration. Contact the office today for a case evaluation at (206) 621-8777.

About the Author

Steve Karimi

Steve Karimi attended Pepperdine University School of Law. After graduation he worked as a prosecutor in Seattle where he gained valuable insight to the criminal justice system. Attorney Karimi uses his experiences as a prosecutor everyday only now he fights for the justice of those accused.

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Named a "rising star" in criminal defense by Washington Law and Politics magazine, Mr. Karimi is a former prosecutor for King County who uses his insight into prosecution strategies to protect his clients' rights in criminal court.