California’s state legislature, like many around the nation, is grappling with the issue of privacy in the face of the growing demand by law enforcement to use drones to combat criminal activity.
The bill was approved by the state Assembly’s Public Safety Committee on Tuesday.
Among other safeguards, the bill would require law enforcement agencies to obtain a warrant based on probable cause before using a drone to collect evidence. Exceptions would include emergencies such as a hostage crisis, fire, hot pursuit of a suspected criminal or search-and-rescue operation over land or water. It would allow cities and counties to enact more restrictive policies if they choose to do so.
Gorell described the bill as “pretty restrictive.”
AB1327 would also require that public agencies permanently destroy all data and images collected by an unmanned aerial device within 10 days unless required as evidence of a crime or as part of a court order. A person who is subject to surveillance without consent may seek and obtain an injunction prohibiting the use of images, footage, or data related to the person that was obtained through the surveillance, and would provide for the awarding of liquidated damages of five thousand dollars ($5,000) for each day of surveillance and any actual damages in excess of that amount.
Unmanned systems are most commonly known for their use by the military and this is not lost on Gorell. He served as a naval targeting officer in Afghanistan.
“The capabilities of these platforms far exceed what people are prepared for domestically,” he said. “Law enforcement would rather not have any regulations, and that UAS vehicles be treated the same as helicopters or airplanes.”
Without passage of this bill, law enforcement will be able to use drones in California any place, any time, for any reason and with no restrictions. Even with the few exceptions included in the legislation, the bill greatly restricts drone use and represents a major improvement over the status quo.
The proposed restrictions are opposed by the California State Sheriffs’ Association.
Linda Lye, an attorney with the ACLU, is concerned drone technology is outpacing the law.
“There has to be a (regulatory) framework in place before the drone is deployed,” she said.
Lye points out the attraction of drones is their relative low cost in relationship to helicopters and planes and that DHS is offering grants to help state and local agencies pay for the equipment which might otherwise overburden their already strained budgets.
In face, DHS grants serve as the primary engine behind the expansion of drone surveillance at the state and local level. The goal? Fund a network of drones around the country and put the operational burden on the states. Once they create a web over the whole country, DHS steps in with requests for ‘information sharing.’ Bills like Ab1327 put a dent in this kind of long-term strategy. A drone industry lobbyist testifying in opposition to a similar bill in Washington State confirmed this, saying such restrictions would prove extremely destructive to the drone market and industry.
The bill now advances to the Assembly Floor.
1. Contact your representative. Contact your California Assembly representative and firmly but respectfully ask them to support this bill when it comes to the floor vote. If you don’t know who your assemblyman is, use the locator found at http://findyourrep.legislature.ca.gov/
2. Encourage your local community to take action as well. Using model legislation from the Tenth Amendment Center, you can introduce legislation to nullify Drones in your city, town, and county with the Privacy Protection Act.
You will find model legislation HERE.
3. Share this information widely. Please pass this along to your friends and family. Also share it with any and all grassroots groups you’re in contact with around the state. Please encourage them to email this information to their members and supporters.