Law enforcement in Illinois will now have to work under strict regulations when it comes to drones.
Illinois Governor Pat Quinn signed a bill restricting drone spying to the point of near extinction into law late last month.
SB1587 prohibits law enforcement agencies 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. Gov. Quinn inked his name on the legislation on Aug. 27.
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.
While the exceptions raise legitimate concerns, as things existed prior to the law, Illinois had no protections against drones.
1. The DHS could call on Illinois to use drones for any “non-emergency” situation it wanted.
2. The DHS could call on Illinois to use drones for any emergency situation it wanted
3. Law enforcement in Illinois could use drones in any situation they wanted.
The new law eliminates 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.
With governors in Illinois and Oregon signing bills into law, eight states now have limits on drone use in their airspace.
If you live in a state with no restrictions on drone use, contact your state representative and senator and urge them to introduce legislation protecting privacy. You can find model legislation HERE.