Compressive sensing (CS) theory has drawn great interest in recent years and has led to new image-acquisition techniques in many different fields. This research investigates a CS-based active underwater laser serial imaging system, which employs a spatial light modulator (SLM) at the source. A multiscale polarity-flipping measurement matrix and a model-assisted image reconstruction concept are proposed to address limitations imposed by a scattering medium. These concepts are also applicable to CS-based imaging in atmospheric environments characterized by fog, rain, or clouds. Simulation results comparing the performance of the proposed technique with that of traditional laser line scan (LLS) sensors and other structured illumination-based imager are analyzed. Experimental results from over-the-air and underwater tests are also presented. The potential for extending the proposed frame-based imaging technique to the traditional line-by-line scanning mode is discussed.