Penal Code 248 PC
(Shining a Light at an Aircraft to Interfere with Operation)

Penal Code 248 PC is the California statute that makes it a crime for a person to shine a light at an aircraft in order to interfere with its operation.

Examples of criminal acts under PC 248 include:

  • Roberto shines a tactical light into the cockpit of an airplane while hoping to change the course of the plane's path.
  • Jasmine shines a LED light into the windshield of a helicopter specifically to change its operation.
  • Martel shines a laser pointer at a low flying plane in order make the pilot fly at a slower speed.

Defenses

Luckily, there are several legal defenses that a person can raise if accused of a crime under Penal Code 248. These include showing that:

  • the accused had no intent to interfere;
  • a light was used that is not capable of impairing operation; and/or
  • authorities had no probable cause.

Penalties

A violation of this section is charged as a misdemeanor, as opposed to a California felony or an infraction.

As a misdemeanor, the crime is punishable by:

  • imprisonment in a county jail for up to one year; and/or,
  • a fine of up to $1,000.

Our California criminal defense attorneys will highlight the following in this article:

man shining laser pointer
Penal Code 248 is the California statute that makes it a crime for a person to shine a light at an aircraft in order to interfere with its operation.

1. The legal definition of shining a light at an aircraft with intent to interfere

Penal Code 248 is the California statute that makes it a crime for a person to shine a light at an aircraft in order to interfere with its operation.

A prosecutor must prove three things to successfully convict a defendant of this offense. These are:

  1. the defendant willfully shined a light at an aircraft;
  2. the light had an intensity capable of impairing the operation of an aircraft; and,
  3. the defendant intended to interfere with the operation of the aircraft.1

2. Legal defenses

A person accused can challenge the accusation by raising a legal defense.

Three common defenses are:

  1. no intent to interfere;
  2. light not capable of impairing operation; and/or,
  3. no probable cause.

2.1. No intent to interfere

Please recall that a defendant must have specifically intended to interfere with an aircraft's operation in order to be guilty under California Penal Code 248. This means it is always a sound legal defense for an accused to show he did not act with this requisite intent.

2.2 Light not capable of impairing operation

Also recall that Penal Code 248 says that a person is guilty of a crime only if he acts with a device that is intense enough to actually impair an aircraft's operation. It is a defense, therefore, for a defendant to show that he did not act with such a device (e.g., he was holding a match).

2.3. No probable cause

The Fourth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution says that police must have probable cause to detain or arrest a suspect of a crime.

If a person was stopped or arrested for violating PC 248, and there was no probable cause, then any evidence obtained following the improper stop/arrest could get excluded from the case. This exclusion could result in the dismissal or reduction in charges.

man behind bars
A violation of this law can result in a fine and/or jail time

3. Penalties, Punishment, and Sentencing

A violation of PC 248 is charged as a misdemeanor.

The crime is punishable by:

  • imprisonment in a county jail for up to one year; and/or,
  • a fine of up to $1,000.2

In lieu of imprisonment, a judge has the discretion to impose misdemeanor probation, or “summary” or “informal” probation.

4. Related Offenses

There are three crimes related to shining a light at an aircraft with intent to interfere. These are:

  1. failure to dim – VC 24409;
  2. driving in darkness without headlights – VC 24250; and,
  3. possessing a destructive device – PC 18710.

4.1. Failure to dim – VC 24409

Vehicle Code 24409 VC requires drivers to dim their headlights, from high beam to low beam, when approaching and following other vehicles.3

A driver that fails to dim his headlights must pay a fine of $238.00.4

4.2. Driving in darkness without headlights – VC 24250

Under California Vehicle Code 24250 VC, it's unlawful for motorists in California to drive "during darkness" without headlights.5

A driver that drives without headlights must pay a fine of $230.00.6

4.3. Possessing a destructive device – PC 18710

Penal Code 18710 PC makes it a crime to possess a “destructive device.”7 Destructive devices include things like:

  • bombs,
  • grenades, or
  • explosive missiles.

PC 18710 is a “wobbler” offense, meaning that it may be prosecuted as either a misdemeanor or a felony.

No matter how charged though, the penalties for PC 18710 violations can include:

  • imprisonment in a county jail or state prion; and/or,
  • substantial fines.8

Were you accused of shining a light at an aircraft in California with the intent to interfere its operation? Call us for help…

california shining light airplane criminal defense
Call us for help at (855) LAW-FIRM

If you or someone you know has been accused of a crime, per Penal Code 248, we invite you to contact us for a free consultation. We can be reached 24/7 at 855-LawFirm.


Legal References:

  1. California Penal Code 248 PC. This code section states: “Any person who, with the intent to interfere with the operation of an aircraft, willfully shines a light or other bright device, of an intensity capable of impairing the operation of an aircraft, at an aircraft, shall be punished by a fine not exceeding one thousand dollars ($1,000), or by imprisonment in a county jail not exceeding one year, or by both that fine and imprisonment.”

  2. See same.

  3. California Vehicle Code 24409 VC.

  4. See DMV.org.

  5. California Vehicle Code 24409 VC.

  6. See DMV.org.

  7. California Penal Code 18710 PC.

  8. See same.

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