MADISON, Wisc. – Wisconsin joined the growing number of states considering restrictions on drone use last week.
No Wisconsin law enforcement agency may use a drone to gather evidence or other information in a criminal investigation without first obtaining a search warrant under s. 968.12. This subsection does not apply to the use of a drone to assist in an active search and rescue operation, to locate an escaped prisoner, or if a law enforcement officer has reasonable suspicion to believe that the use of a drone is necessary to prevent imminent danger to an individual or to prevent imminent destruction of evidence.
The legislation also bans weaponized drones completely and applies criminal penalties for violations of the law.
A person who sells, possesses, or uses a weaponized drone is guilty of a Class H felony, and may be fined up to $10,000, imprisoned for up to six years, or both. The bill prohibits a person, except a law enforcement officer who has a search warrant or is acting for a permissible emergency purpose, from using a drone that is equipped with video or audio recording equipment to photograph, record, or otherwise observe another individual in a place where the individual has a reasonable expectation of privacy. Anyone who does so is guilty of a Class A misdemeanor, and may be fined up to $10,000, imprisoned for up to nine months, or both.
Unlike many drone bills under consideration or passed by state legislatures, the Wisconsin bill does not provide an exception for Department of Homeland Security defined terror threats.
While the legislation only limits drone use by state and local government, it will seriously impact federal plans. 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 federal government serves as the primary engine behind the expansion of drone surveillance carried out by states and local communities. The Department of Homeland Security issues large grants to local governments so they can purchase drones. Those grants, in and of themselves, represent an unconstitutional expansion of power.
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 these put a dent in this kind of long-term strategy. Without the states and local communities operating the drones today, it will becomes nearly impossible for DHS plans to – take off.
The Assembly Bill was referred to the Committee on Government Operations and State Licensing, and the Senate bill heads to the Committee on Government Operations, Public Works, and Telecommunications.
1. If you live in Wisconsin, contact your senator and representative. Urge them to put limits on drone surveillance and support this legislation. You can find Senate contact information HERE and Assembly contact information HERE.
2. Contact committee members. Urge members of the Assembly Committee on Government Operations and State Licensing and the Senate Committee on Government Operations, Public Works, and Telecommunications to give the bill a hearing an pass it on for further consideration.
3. 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 .
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.