(PDF provides a complete and accurate display of this text.)
112th Congress Rept. 112-11
HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES
1st Session Part 1
SECURING AIRCRAFT COCKPITS AGAINST LASERS ACT
February 11, 2011.--Committed to the Committee of the Whole House on
the State of the Union and ordered to be printed
Mr. Smith of Texas, from the Committee on the Judiciary,
submitted the following
R E P O R T
[To accompany H.R. 386]
[Including cost estimate of the Congressional Budget Office]
The Committee on the Judiciary, to whom was referred the
bill (H.R. 386) to amend title 18, United States Code, to
provide penalties for aiming laser pointers at airplanes, and
for other purposes, having considered the same, reports
favorably thereon without amendment and recommends that the
bill do pass.
Purpose and Summary.............................................. 1
Background and Need for the Legislation.......................... 2
Committee Consideration.......................................... 3
Committee Votes.................................................. 3
Committee Oversight Findings..................................... 3
New Budget Authority and Tax Expenditures........................ 3
Congressional Budget Office Cost Estimate........................ 3
Performance Goals and Objectives................................. 4
Constitutional Authority Statement............................... 4
Advisory on Earmarks............................................. 4
Section-by-Section Analysis...................................... 4
Changes in Existing Law Made by the Bill, as Reported............ 5
Purpose and Summary
H.R. 386, the ``Securing Aircraft Cockpits Against Lasers
Act of 2011,'' amends title 18 of the United States Code to
provide for the imposition of criminal penalties for any
individual who knowingly aims a laser pointer at an aircraft
within the special aircraft jurisdiction of the United States,
or its flight path, a practice that creates a serious threat to
public safety and aviation security, especially during the
critical stages of take-off and landing. The penalties include
fines and imprisonment of up to 5 years.
Background and Need for the Legislation
A laser, when aimed at an aircraft, can create a visual
distraction or cause discomfort or even damage to a pilot's
eyes. H.R. 386 addresses the high number of incidents involving
lasers being pointed at aircraft while in flight. Many of these
incidents are occurring during the take-off and landing portion
of a flight, when the pilots need to be most alert. The Federal
Aviation Administration has reported that pilots have had to
relinquish control of their aircraft to their copilot. In the
case of law enforcement aircraft, there are reports that
responses to crime scenes by airborne police units were
terminated due to laser interference. More than 2,800 laser
incidents involving aircraft were reported in 2010.
Some perpetrators have been charged under 18 U.S.C.
Sec. 32, relating to the destruction of aircraft. However, this
provision requires the government to prove willful interference
and intent to endanger the pilots. While this burden may be
easily established when a person attempts to detonate a bomb
onboard an aircraft or attempts to overtake a member of the
flight crew, it is difficult to establish this same type of
intent for a laser incident, even if the effect is actually to
endanger the pilots.
This bill recognizes the obvious and inherent danger of
aiming a laser at an aircraft under any circumstance, as long
as the offender knowingly aims the laser at the aircraft. The
penalty under section 32, 20 years, coupled with having to
prove specific intent to interfere with, disable, or endanger
the pilots, seems to be a factor in multiple declinations of
prosecution under the current statute.
The problem of lasers being shined into cockpits is so
prevalent in some areas of the country that the Federal Bureau
of Investigation, the Federal Aviation Administration, the
Federal Air Marshal Service, as well as State and local law
enforcement, have established a Laser Strike Working Group to
address the problem.
On January 19, 2011, the Air Line Pilots Association
International, representing 53,000 pilots flying for 38
airlines in the United States and Canada, sent a letter of
support of this legislation. This letter stated in part: ``The
inappropriate use of widely available laser pointers against
airborne flight crews represents a genuine and growing safety
and security concern. At a minimum, the laser illumination of a
cockpit creates a flight crew distraction and in more serious
cases can result in eye damage and temporary incapacitation.''
In the 111th Congress, the House approved identical
legislation (H.R. 5810) by voice vote on July 27, 2010. An
identical bill was introduced in the 110th Congress (H.R.
1615). A subcommittee hearing was held on May 1, 2007, and the
Judiciary Committee marked up the bill on May 2, 2007. The bill
passed the House by a voice vote on May 22, 2007.
The Committee on the Judiciary held no hearings on H.R.
On January 26, 2011, the Committee met in open session and
ordered the bill H.R. 386 favorably reported without amendment,
by voice vote, a quorum being present.
In compliance with clause 3(b) of rule XIII of the Rules of
the House of Representatives, the Committee advises that there
were no recorded votes during the Committee's consideration of
Committee Oversight Findings
In compliance with clause 3(c)(1) of rule XIII of the Rules
of the House of Representatives, the Committee advises that the
findings and recommendations of the Committee, based on
oversight activities under clause 2(b)(1) of rule X of the
Rules of the House of Representatives, are incorporated in the
descriptive portions of this report.
New Budget Authority and Tax Expenditures
Clause 3(c)(2) of rule XIII of the Rules of the House of
Representatives is inapplicable because this legislation does
not provide new budgetary authority or increased tax
Congressional Budget Office Cost Estimate
In compliance with clause 3(c)(3) of rule XIII of the Rules
of the House of Representatives, the Committee sets forth, with
respect to the bill, H.R. 386, the following estimate and
comparison prepared by the Director of the Congressional Budget
Office under section 402 of the Congressional Budget Act of
Congressional Budget Office,
Washington, DC, February 2, 2011.
Hon. Lamar Smith, Chairman,
Committee on the Judiciary,
House of Representatives, Washington, DC.
Dear Mr. Chairman: The Congressional Budget Office has
prepared the enclosed cost estimate for H.R. 386, the
``Securing Aircraft Cockpits Against Lasers Act of 2011.''
If you wish further details on this estimate, we will be
pleased to provide them. The CBO staff contact is Mark
Grabowicz, who can be reached at 226-2860.
Douglas W. Elmendorf,
Honorable John Conyers, Jr.
H.R. 386--Securing Aircraft Cockpits Against Lasers Act of 2011.
CBO estimates that implementing H.R. 386 would have no
significant cost to the Federal Government. The legislation
could affect direct spending and revenues, so pay-as-you-go
procedures apply, but we estimate that any such effects would
not be significant.
H.R. 386 would establish a new Federal crime for aiming the
beam of a laser pointer at an aircraft or at the aircraft's
flight path. Thus, the government might be able to pursue cases
against violators that it otherwise would not be able to
prosecute. However, CBO expects that H.R. 386 would apply to a
relatively small number of offenders, so any increase in costs
for law enforcement, court proceedings, or prison operations
would not be significant. Any such costs would be subject to
the availability of appropriated funds.
Because those prosecuted and convicted under H.R. 386 could
be subject to criminal fines, the Federal Government might
collect additional amounts if the legislation is enacted.
Criminal fines are recorded as revenues, deposited in the Crime
Victims Fund, and later spent. CBO estimates that any
additional revenues and direct spending would not be
significant because of the small number of cases likely to be
H.R. 386 contains no intergovernmental or private-sector
mandates as defined in the Unfunded Mandates Reform Act and
would impose no costs on State, local, or tribal governments.
The CBO staff contact for this estimate is Mark Grabowicz.
The estimate was approved by Theresa Gullo, Deputy Assistant
Director for Budget Analysis.
Performance Goals and Objectives
The Committee states that pursuant to clause 3(c)(4) of
rule XIII of the Rules of the House of Representatives, H.R.
386 is intended to punish and deter the practice of knowingly
aiming laser beams at aircraft.
Constitutional Authority Statement
The Committee finds the authority for this legislation in
article I, section 8, clause 3 of the Constitution.
Advisory on Earmarks
In accordance with clause 9 of rule XXI of the Rules of the
House of Representatives, H.R. 386 does not contain any
congressional earmarks, limited tax benefits, or limited tariff
benefits as defined in clause 9(e), 9(f), or 9(g) of Rule XXI.
The following discussion describes the bill as reported by
Sec. 1. Short title. Section 1 sets forth the short title
of the bill as `Securing Aircraft Cockpits Against Lasers Act
Sec. 2. Prohibition against Aiming A Laser Pointer At An
Aircraft. Section 2 makes it a crime to knowingly aim the beam
of a laser pointer at an aircraft in the special aircraft
jurisdiction of the United States or at the flight path of such
aircraft. An individual convicted of this crime is subject to
criminal fines or imprisonment up to 5 years. This provision
does not apply to: (1) individuals conducting research and
development or flight test operations for an aircraft
manufacturer or the Federal Aviation Administration; (2)
Department of Defense or Department of Homeland Security
personnel conducting research, development, operations, testing
or training; or (3) an individual using a laser emergency
signaling device to send a distress signal.
Section 2 authorizes the Attorney General, in consultation
with the Secretary of Transportation, to provide by regulation,
after public notice and comment, additional exceptions to this
provision as necessary and appropriate. The Attorney General
must give written notice of any such proposed regulations to
the House and Senate Committees on the Judiciary as well as
other specified committees.
Sec.3. Compliance with PAYGO. Sets the determination of the
budgetary effects of the Act for compliance with the Statutory
Pay-As-You-Go Act of 2010.
Changes in Existing Law Made by the Bill, as Reported
In compliance with clause 3(e) of rule XIII of the Rules of
the House of Representatives, changes in existing law made by
the bill, as reported, are shown as follows (new matter is
printed in italics and existing law in which no change is
proposed is shown in roman):
TITLE 18, UNITED STATES CODE
* * * * * * *
* * * * * * *
CHAPTER 2--AIRCRAFT AND MOTOR VEHICLES
* * * * * * *
39A. Aiming a laser pointer at an aircraft.
* * * * * * *
Sec. 39A. Aiming a laser pointer at an aircraft
(a) Whoever knowingly aims the beam of a laser pointer at an
aircraft in the special aircraft jurisdiction of the United
States, or at the flight path of such an aircraft, shall be
fined under this title or imprisoned not more than 5 years, or
(b) As used in this section, the term ``laser pointer'' means
any device designed or used to amplify electromagnetic
radiation by stimulated emission that emits a beam designed to
be used by the operator as a pointer or highlighter to
indicate, mark, or identify a specific position, place, item,
(c) This section does not prohibit aiming a beam of a laser
pointer at an aircraft, or the flight path of such an aircraft,
(1) an authorized individual in the conduct of
research and development or flight test operations
conducted by an aircraft manufacturer, the Federal
Aviation Administration, or any other person authorized
by the Federal Aviation Administration to conduct such
research and development or flight test operations;
(2) members or elements of the Department of Defense
or Department of Homeland Security acting in an
official capacity for the purpose of research,
development, operations, testing or training; or
(3) by an individual using a laser emergency
signaling device to send an emergency distress signal.
(d) The Attorney General, in consultation with the Secretary
of Transportation, may provide by regulation, after public
notice and comment, such additional exceptions to this section,
as may be necessary and appropriate. The Attorney General shall
provide written notification of any proposed regulations under
this section to the Committees on the Judiciary of the House
and Senate, the Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure
in the House, and the Committee on Commerce, Science and
Transportation in the Senate not less than 90 days before such
regulations become final.
* * * * * * *