The Federal Aviation Administration has announced plans to impose fines as high as $11,000 upon those caught shining laser pointers into airplane cockpits.
Exposure to the beam emitted by such a device can result in temporary blindness, thus theoretically resulting in a major air catastrophe if a flight crew were unexpectedly incapacitated.
In a sense, such a regulation is all good and called for.
However, one can't but help ask the question how the perpetrators of such malfeasance can be identified at such a distance.
One account categorized the proposed penalty as civil rather than criminal in nature.
As such, it should be pointed out that the threshold to impose such are often lower and occasionally do not afford those they are leveled against with the traditional procedural protections of the judicial system.
In light of the way certain regulations regarding drug possession are implemented, these enforcement operations could end up being as much about raising revenue and seizing desired property as it is about making the skies a friendlier place to fly.
For example, under certain instances of civil penalties and forfeiture, those ultimately cleared of any criminal wrong doing in regards to the drug offenses leveled against them do not necessarily have their property returned to them despite never having been convicted as a part of due process.
Often assorted agencies end up retaining the seized objects and parcels or require those such possessions should rightly revert back to to go through additional bureaucratic procedures that consume both time and resources. This for the purpose of pressuring the individual to relent to the seizure of their property and to further enrich the lawyers for whom the regulatory behemoth was ultimately designed to benefit.
The reasoning is that such property could potentially be used in a future crime. And in the case of an automobile seized from the owner despite the fact that it was being driven by someone else at the time of a contraband interdiction, the standard reply goes something like, "Well, you should have been more careful as to whom you let borrow your car so we are going to auction it off now anyway ."
Thus, will fines for the shining of laser pointers into jetliner cockpits be issued against the person actually aiming the device or rather the title holder of the land from which the beam originated?
Eventually, if an area has a disproportionate number of laser pointer incidents or even the potential for a disproportionate number of laser pointer incidents, the government will step in to preemptively snatch the property in question. What they then decide to do with the disputed parcel may have nothing whatsoever to do with enhancing air travel safety but more about rewarding contributors in real estate development.
Vigilance against the terrorist menace out to destroy the American way of life is essential. However, perhaps even more imperative is keeping an eye on those that would use this threat to undermine life, liberty, and property.
By Frederick Meekins