Chat with us, powered by LiveChat

In an era where laser pointers have become both common and potentially hazardous, Washington State has enacted specific laws to address the misuse of these devices. RCW 9A.49.030, in particular, outlines the offense of unlawful discharge of a laser in the second degree, setting legal boundaries for the irresponsible use of lasers that pose a risk to public safety.

What Constitutes Unlawful Discharge of a Laser in the Second Degree?

Under RCW 9A.49.030, a person commits this offense by knowingly and maliciously discharging a laser under circumstances that do not qualify as first-degree unlawful discharge of a laser or first or second-degree malicious mischief. The statute specifies three main scenarios where using a laser becomes a gross misdemeanor:

  1. Directing a Laser at a Motor Vehicle Operator: If a laser is pointed at someone operating a motor vehicle, impairing their ability to drive safely or affecting the vehicle’s operation, it constitutes unlawful discharge. This provision aims to prevent accidents and ensure road safety by protecting drivers from being distracted or blinded by lasers.
  2. Causing Substantial Risk to Specific Individuals: Discharging a laser at individuals described in RCW 9A.49.020(1) (b) through (f), such as law enforcement officers or emergency personnel, and causing a significant risk of impairment or interruption in their duties, falls under this offense. These actions not only endanger the individuals targeted but also compromise public safety and emergency response efforts.
  3. Intimidation or Threatening with a Laser: Using a laser to intimidate or threaten any person also constitutes unlawful discharge. This aspect of the law recognizes the potential for lasers to be used as tools of coercion or harassment, extending its protective measures to all individuals.

Unlawful discharge of a laser in the second degree is classified as a gross misdemeanor in Washington State, except in cases covered by RCW 9A.49.040. Convicted individuals face serious penalties, including potential jail time and fines, reflecting the law’s stance on safeguarding public safety from the hazards posed by improperly used lasers.


RCW 9A.49.030 is a testament to Washington State’s commitment to addressing the unique challenges posed by modern technology, specifically the misuse of lasers. By establishing clear legal consequences for the reckless discharge of lasers, the statute aims to prevent behaviors that endanger individuals, particularly those operating vehicles or serving in roles critical to public safety and emergency services. Understanding and adhering to this law is crucial for all residents to ensure the responsible use of lasers and contribute to a safer community environment.

You can read the text of RCW 9A.49.030 here:

Review our client resources here

Contact us anytime for your urgent legal needs.

About Blanford Law:

We are no-nonsense, relentless, fair, and honest. We are great listeners instead of fast talkers, that is just who we are. More than 20 years ago, Ken began practicing law with a deeply-seeded belief that every person has the right to the best legal representation available. He built his law firm on that belief. Another belief that he strongly adheres to is his fundamental belief that clients deserve respect, with no assumptions or preconceived notions.  If you or someone you know is accused of a crime or injured as a result of the negligence of another, please have them call us at 253-720-9304 or email us