Shining a laser pointer at an airplane in the state of Maryland is one step closer to becoming a crime punishable with prison time.
The Maryland House of Delegates passed a bill Monday that would criminalize what delegates call a "dangerous trend" that has seen people targeting aircraft with cheap laser pointers, which can briefly blind and temporarily disorient pilots.
The measure, which is sponsored by Del. Sam Arora of Montgomery County, now moves to the state Senate.
"Laser pointers, especially the green ones, are surprisingly powerful and also cheap," Arora said in a statement. "We are working to protect our first responders and make air travel safer with this bill."
If signed into law, those convicted under the new law could face up to three years in prison and a $2,500 fine. The current penalty is a fine up to $500.
The proposed bill came after a Federal Aviation Administration report said that laser-related incidents increased by 85 percent between 2009 and 2010. Maryland reported 63 such incidents, including eight against Maryland State Police helicopters.