Texas Man is Charged With Pointing a Laser at a Helicopter

It’s not every day that charges of pointing a laser at an aircraft are brought but the offense is more common in Texas than many people believe.

Recently the Dallas Morning News reported on how 24-year-old Steven Alexander Chavez Jr. was arrested by federal authorities in Lubbock and charged with one count of aiming a laser pointer at an aircraft.

The report said federal authorities recorded 90 such incidents in 2013, in the Dallas division alone. Federal authorities take any offense that could interfere with aviation very seriously and people found guilty of such an offense can expect a weighty sentence.

Police said Chavez Jr. was charged with one count of aiming a laser pointer at a Texas Department of Public Safety helicopter. He was arrested three days after he was indicted by a federal grand jury in Dallas.

The Dallas Morning News reported on an incident at 1:07 a.m. on Aug. 24, 2013. DPS and Garland police said in the report a DPS chopper flew over Chavez’s house along the 1100 block of Alexandria Avenue in north Garland. The Garland police report stated the pilot and a tactical flight officer were greeted by a green laser lighting up the cockpit. The incident was captured on video.

The helicopter flew over the residence and police saw three men in the backyard. The Garland officer in the helicopter directed officers on the ground to the address, according to the Dallas Morning News.

The police report said the three men who were interviewed were initially reluctant to say who pointed the laser, but when they were told there was video evidence, Chavez confessed. The officers confiscated the laser pointer.

“The feds eventually intercepted the case as it was making its way to the Dallas County District Attorney’s Office,” the Dallas Morning News reported.

If he is convicted, Chavez faces a maximum statutory penalty of five years in federal prison and a $250,000 fine, the report stated.

The Dallas Morning News reported Chavez was already facing prison time. Dallas County court records revealed he was arrested on suspicion of drunken driving on Aug. 3, 2013, after two police officers found him passed out in a car that had crashed into an electrical pole along the N. Central Expressway service road.

The federal authorities take laser strike incidents very seriously. In June, 2014, the FBI announced that it will pay up to $10,000 for information leading to the arrest of anyone found to be aiming a laser at an aircraft. One incident in the Dallas area last year led to a 30-month federal prison sentence for Kenneth Santodomingo after he confessed to aiming a laser pointer at a Dallas police helicopter.

Although federal investigators take this charge very seriously, there is also room for error in these cases. If the FBI has brought charges against you, you are likely to be facing a stiff sentence and should hire Dallas criminal defense attorneys with a long track record of fighting federal indictments.

Mick Mickelsen is a nationally recognized criminal trial attorney with more than 30 years of experience defending people charged with white-collar crimes, drug offenses, sex crimes, murder, and other serious state and federal offenses.