Is It Illegal to Shine a Laser at a Camera?

Is It Illegal to Shine a Laser at a Camera

A laser is a device that stimulates atoms to emit light and amplifies the light. It is a different source of electrical energy as all the light waves have similar wavelengths which enable the light to be focused, very bright, and very narrow. Lasers do not occur in nature, they are an artificial light source that has found various uses in science today. Lasers are classified based on the amount of damage they cause to the eye. The FDA offers the following classification;

  • Class 1 lasers- are considered to be the safest lasers and are incapable of producing damaging radiation levels.
  • Class 2 lasers- are low-power lasers that emit visible radiation but have a very low capacity to cause eye damage.
  • Class 1M lasers- these are considered safe for the human eye unless viewed using an optical instrument such as a telescope.
  • Class 2M lasers- these lasers can cause ocular damage but are potentially hazardous when viewed with optical aids.
  • Class 3R lasers- these are lasers that could be potentially hazardous if viewed under a direct beam and specular reflection hazards but with a small probability of injury.
  • Class 3B lasers- these lasers are not normally a fire hazard but can cause ocular damage if viewed under a direct beam and specular reflection hazards
  • Class 4 lasers- these are high-power lasers that are hazardous to the eye and the skin and can also be a fire hazard.

Due to the focused nature of the laser beam, the type of light it produces can be hazardous to cameras and the naked eye. It is not particularly illegal to shine a laser at a camera but it may be illegal to own a laser in your state area it is therefore important to confirm the legality of the laser beam. It is however illegal to point a laser at an aircraft in most states in the USA.

Is it illegal to shine a laser at a camera? No, it is not illegal to shine a laser at a camera but it may damage your camera physically. It is however illegal to shine a laser at an aircraft and in most states at a human being or an animal. This is because pointing a laser at an aircraft fills the cockpit with light that temporarily blinds the pilot and may result in an extremely dangerous accident.

What Happens if You Shine a Laser at a Camera?

If you shine a laser at a camera, it will cause physical damage to the camera’s sensors. The light that is produced by a laser produces heat which can cause physical damage to exposed areas such as the eyes or a camera with cameras being more susceptible to damage. When a laser is shone at a camera, the degree of damage can vary. Some of the damaging changes include;

  • The appearance of horizontal or vertical lines on the image or video meaning that data from the column or row can no longer be read.
  • Minor damages that only noticeable in an area of uniform color such as a blue sky which could point to a few pixels not working.
  • In more severe cases, there may be larger or more extensive burn areas.

It is however important to note that in order for you to permanently ruin a camera using a laser, you have to be less than 50 meters away from the camera and you have to ensure your hands are very steady so you can point it exactly at the sensor. For this reason, it is difficult to ruin surveillance cameras permanently. Images produced from cameras that have experienced a degree of laser damage to their sensor may have some unreadable data and the videos may also have horizontal or vertical lines across the footage. If you wish to get a laser that will not be hazardous to you and your family as well as your camera, you can try this Battlefire Rifle Scope with 4 reticles and ideal optics for hunting. Read more on it here.

Can You go to Jail for Pointing a Laser?

Laws governing the use of laser beams in the USA vary depending on one’s state. In most states in the country, pointing a laser beam at an aircraft is strictly illegal and can get you up to 5 years in jail or you could be fined. This is because the use of laser beams on aircraft temporarily blinds the pilot in the cockpit and this can be a very dangerous affair. The further a laser beam travels, the more spread out it becomes, which could result in a very bright light illuminating the cockpit. In South Carolina for example, the laws governing the use of laser beams are very strict and only allow the use in the case of self-defense or if hunting. It is also prohibited for a minor to own a laser and if found with one it is subject to immediate confiscation.

The legality of the laser beams also depends on the class of laser being produced. Classes 3B and 4 are classified as hazardous and are therefore not sold without a permit. Class IIIa lasers are legal and I would recommend getting this Lunvon Upgrade Laser Christmas Lights Projection for indoor and outdoor use. Read more on it here.

Can You Disable a Security Camera With a Laser Pointer?

After videos of protesters in Hong Kong disabling cameras using lasers, many have wondered if it is possible to disable a security camera with a laser pointer. As mentioned above, in order for you to damage a camera permanently using your laser beam, two factors have to be considered and these are;

  1. Distance from the camera- from a distance of more than 50 meters from a camera, it is difficult to cause any lasting damage to a camera.
  2. Steadiness- one has to be steady while shining the laser because above a distance of 10meters, it gets difficult to focus your laser beam.

Due to the location of most security cameras, it is difficult for one to disable a camera using a laser beam. It is however not impossible therefore as the owner of the security camera, there are precautions you could take to protect your cameras from the effects of laser beams such as; keeping your camera high and away from people, using a ‘blinding notification’ software, or installing moving cameras to make tracking more difficult. Another factor that makes it difficult to damage cameras by shining a laser at them is the fact that most lasers found among the public are low-energy laser beams and they, therefore, have low penetrability. A laser beam I would recommend that would not damage your camera and would be safe for use in public areas is this NcStar Green Class IIIa Laser with Max output of <5mw which comes with a weaver style mount model. Read more on it by following this link.

Final Thoughts

It is not illegal to shine a laser at a camera in most states. This is mostly due to the fact that it is difficult to cause any permanent damage to the camera using the laser beam. However, it is not impossible to cause damage to the camera and therefore camera owners need to be wary of lasers pointing to their camera sensors. It is however illegal to shine a laser at an aircraft in almost all states, this is because it could temporarily blind the pilot.

Depending on what you need the laser for, it is important to do your research on it to avoid damaging your eyes temporarily or permanently or even those of people close to you. It is important to use lasers in a safe way to avoid causing any damage.

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