Laser Pointers - Questions and Answers
The following relates to the changes which are now law. These laws apply to all laser pointers, regardless of their power level.
Q: Am I allowed to own a battery operated, hand held, laser pointer?
A: You are allowed to own such a laser pointer. However recent amendments to the Weapons Prohibition Act 1998 require a permit be issued (or the person be eligible for an exemption) where the laser pointer exceeds one milliwatt. Regardless of the milliwatts, no laser pointer can be carried or used in a public place without a reasonable excuse.
Q: What is a reasonable excuse?
A: A reasonable excuse will be determined on a case by case basis but examples of a person with a reasonable excuse could be an amateur astronomer, a teacher or a lecturer who uses the pointer for astronomy or teaching and has it in his or her possession at the relevant time for that purpose.
Q: What is the penalty?
A: The penalty for possession or use of a laser pointer in a public place without a reasonable excuse may be up to two years imprisonment or a fine of up to $5,500.
Q: Can the police search me if they are looking for a laser pointer?
A: Laser pointers are now classed as dangerous implements under the Law Enforcement (Powers and Responsibilities) Act. This gives police the power to request a person in a public place (but not a school) to submit to a frisk search if the police officer suspects on reasonable grounds that the person has a laser pointer on them.
A police officer also has the power to confiscate the item if the laser pointer is unlawfully in the person’s possession.
Q: Are medical lasers, laser-based tools and other such devices covered by these laws?
A: The law relates to battery operated, hand held laser pointers.
‘Laser pointer’ means what it is commonly understood to mean - a device for pointing out an object.
Laser devices that are used for medical purposes are unlikely to fall within this definition. In any case, a surgeon would be able to point to their occupation as a reasonable excuse for possessing a laser pointer in a public place,
Similarly, if the device is powered by mains electric power, it is not battery operated and so is not covered by these laws.
Similarly, various laser measuring or levelling devices used in the building industry should not be affected as they are not ‘pointers’. In addition, they are not held in the hand while being used and so are not ‘hand held pointers’.
Q: Are any laser pointers prohibited?
A: Laser pointers with a power output of more than one milliwatt are now prohibited weapons. You must obtain a permit to possess or use a laser pointer that is in this category, unless you use the pointer for activities associated with astronomy and are a member of an approved astronomical association.
Q: How do I get a permit to use a laser pointer whose power is over one milliwatt?
A: You must make application to the NSW Police Firearms Registry (telephone: 1300 362 562), website www.police.nsw.gov.au/firearms. Permits are not granted automatically. You must have a genuine reason for the use of such a laser pointer.
Q: What is a genuine reason?
A: It is not possible to provide an exhaustive list of genuine reasons. Each application for a permit will be assessed on its merits. An example of a genuine reason would be if an applicant could demonstrate that a laser pointer greater than one milliwatt was required for business/employment purposes. Other reasons listed under Section 11 of the Weapons Prohibition Act 1998 include, recreational, sporting, film/television, theatrical and scientific purposes.
Q: Are there any exemptions to the need for a permit?
A: If you are using the pointer for activities associated with astronomy and are a member of an approved astronomical association you are not required to obtain a permit.
Q: What must I do if I currently have a laser pointer with a power level of more than one milliwatt?
A: If you want to keep the laser pointer and you are not a member of an approved astronomical organisation, you must obtain a permit from the Firearms Registry by 1 December 2008.
If you do not obtain a permit, then you should safely dispose of the laser pointer. Unauthorised possession/use of such a laser pointer is a criminal offence.