TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (April 10, 2013) – A bill restricting the use of drones in the Sunshine State unanimously passed the Florida Senate Wednesday morning.
SB92 would prohibit any law enforcement agency from using unmanned drones to gather evidence or other information without a warrant.
“A law enforcement agency may not use a drone to gather evidence or other information.”
The bill opens the door for any person whose privacy is violated by a drone to take civil action and would also make any evidence gathered in violation of the act inadmissible in court.
The act makes its only exception allowing for the use of drones “to counter a high risk of a terrorist attack by a specific individual or organization if the United States Secretary of Homeland Security determines that credible intelligence indicates that there is such a risk.”
The Freedom from Unwarranted Surveillance Act passed 39-0 with one Senator not voting. (See the roll call HERE)
Sen. Joe Negron sponsored the bill.
“I believe it achieves a delicate balance between security and freedom,” he said before the full Senate vote.
SB92 sailed through five committee hearings with unanimous approval in each.
“I believe that privacy should be protected and I look forward to signing Sen. Negron’s drone bill. This law will ensure that the rights of Florida families are protected from the unwarranted use of drones and other unmanned aircraft,” Florida Governor Rick Scott said.
The House companion bill HB119 must now be passed before “the drone bill” can become law.
HB 119 is sponsored by the House Judiciary Committee and Criminal Justice Subcommittee, along with Rep. Ritch Workman. The bill has passed unanimously through three committees to date and was added to the second reading calendar.
Some activists have criticized the bill due to various exceptions allowing for limited drone use. While these exceptions do raise legitimate concerns, as things exist today, Floridians have no protections against drone.
1. The DHS can call on Florida to use drones for any “non-emergency” situation it wants.
2. The DHS can call on Florida to use drones for any emergency situation it wants.
3. Law enforcement in Florida can use drones in any situation they want.
Passage of SB92/HB119 would eliminate number one and number three, so this bill ushers in a MASSIVE improvement over the status quo.
“As it is now, law enforcement agencies in Florida can use drones any time, anywhere with absolutely no parameters. If the Freedom from Unwarranted Surveillance Act becomes law, drone use will be extremely limited and circumscribed. I understand the concern some activists have expressed. I share those concerns. But the thought of passing nothing and ending up with absolutely no limits on drone use would concern me a lot more,” Tenth Amendment Center national communications director Mike Maharrey said.
Without any action by the Florida legislature, the only thing standing between Florida and a full-fledged drone surveillance state is a little funding.
And that’s coming down the pike.
At this stage in the ‘drone game,’ the feds are working hard behind the scenes to get states to operate the drones for them.
In fact, the primary engine behind the expansion of drone surveillance being carried out by states and local communities is the Federal government itself. Department of Homeland Security issues large grants to local governments so that those agencies can purchase drones. Those grants, in and of themselves, are an unconstitutional expansion of power.
The goal? Fund a network of drones around the country and put the operational burden on the states. Once the create a web over the whole country, DHS steps in with requests for ‘information sharing.’ Bills like these put a dent in this kind of long-term strategy. Without the states and local communities operating the drones today, it’s going to be nearly impossible for DHS plans to – take off.
In fact, this has been as much as confirmed by a drone industry lobbyist who testified in opposition to a similar bill in Washington State, saying that such restrictions would be extremely destructive to the drone market and industry.
While the The Freedom from Unwarranted Surveillance Act might not be the perfect bill, it is a solid bill providing parameters for drone use. Pass the bill now and then move forward with further restrictions in the future once basic regulation is in place.
A NO vote on SB92/HB119 is a vote in FAVOR of unlimited drone spying by everyone in Florida.
1. Contact your State Representative. Strongly, but respectfully, let him or her know that you want them to vote YES on HB119. Contact info here:
2. Contact House Speaker Will Weatherford and ask him to move quickly to schedule this bill to a full House vote. You can email him at Will.Weatherford@myfloridahouse.gov or tweet him at @willweatherford .
3. Encourage your local community to take action as well. Present the Privacy Protection Act to your city county, your town council, or your county commissioners. Various local governments around the country are already passing similar resolutions and ordinances. Local legislative action presents a great way to strengthen a statewide campaign against drone spying.
Model legislation here:
4. 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.