SPRINGFIELD, Ill. – An Illinois bill restricting drone spying to the point of near extinction now heads to the governor’s desk for his signature.
If signed into law, SB1587 would prohibit law enforcement angencies from using unmanned drones to gather evidence or other information without a warrant in most cases.
The House overwhelmingly passed the Freedom from Drone Surveillance Act 105-12 on May 30. The Senate gave its approval 52-1 in April and quickly concurred with two House Amendments the day after House passage. SB1587 now moves on to Gov. Pat Quinn for his signature.
The act does leave the door open for some drone use. The prime exception allows 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.” In addition, the bill would permit law enforcement agencies to use drones when attempting to locate a missing person, as long as that flight was “not also undertaking a criminal investigation.” It would also allow for review of a crime scene and traffic crash scene photography. Any information gathered by a drone would have to be destroyed within 30 days, unless the information proved to contain evidence of criminal activity, or was relevant to a trial or investigation.
The House amendments actually strengthened the bill.
The first tightened up admissibility provisions. It now provides that if the court finds by a preponderance of the evidence that a law enforcement agency used a drone to gather information in violation of the information gathering limits in of the Act, then the information shall be presumed to be inadmissible in any judicial or administrative proceeding. It does allow that the State may overcome this presumption by proving the applicability of a judicially recognized exception to the exclusionary rule of the Fourth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution or Article I, Section 6 of the Illinois Constitution to the information. It also provides that nothing in the Act shall be deemed to prevent a court from independently reviewing the admissibility of the information for compliance with the aforementioned provisions of the U.S. and Illinois Constitutions.
The second amendment deleted a provision that permitted the use of drone by a law enforcement agency if the law enforcement agency possesses reasonable suspicion that, under particular circumstances, swift action is needed to prevent serious damage to property.
The Senate concurred with both amendments unanimously.
1. Contact Gov. Quinn. Urge the governor to sign SB1587 into law. You can find contact information HERE.
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 .
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.
Some activists criticize the bill due to the various exceptions. While they do raise legitimate concerns, as things exist today, Illinois has no protections against drones.
1. The DHS can call on Illinois to use drones for any “non-emergency” situation it wants.
2. The DHS can call on Illinois to use drones for any emergency situation it wants.
3. Law enforcement in Illinois can use drones in any situation they want.
Passage of the bill would eliminate number one and most of number three, so this bill ushers in a MASSIVE improvement over the status quo.
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’s going to be nearly impossible for DHS plans to – take off.