Point your lasers elsewhere or face hefty penalties.
That's the message from Federal Aviation Administration officials, who this week announced they would pursue tougher punishment for anyone who points a laser at an aircraft.
The FAA has seen an increase in reported laser incidents nationally since 2005, officials said, with some 3,592 reports in 2011, compared with 2,836 a year earlier.
"It can go from as little as being a distraction to the crew, to a glare, to providing a flash blindness to the crew," said Sgt. Steve Youngs of the California Highway Patrol.
Since June, the FAA has started enforcement action against 28 people, officials said.
The FAA also will seek civil penalties against those who point lasers at aircraft, said agency spokeswoman Laura Brown. A single laser strike has an $11,000 maximum penalty.
Law enforcement officers have reported at least two cases in the past decade involving lasers pointed at a California Highway Patrol helicopter. Youngs said crews try to catch those pointing lasers either to punish people doing it maliciously or provide education when someone hits an aircraft accidentally.
Early last year Shasta County Sheriff's deputies arrested Kevin Foster after a CHP pilot reported he was temporarily blinded by a laser while flying above a Shasta Lake neighborhood.
Foster, who said at the time he didn't purposely point the laser at the helicopter, was sentenced to three years probation, according to electronic court records.
Youngs said another man recently wound up with a year in prison and the potential for thousands in fines after pointing a laser at a helicopter.
"I think many of these people don't understand what they're getting themselves into when they think they innocently go out and shine a light in the sky," Youngs said.
(Contact Sean Longoria of the Redding Record Searchlight in California atSLongoria@redding.com