The Connecticut state house is considering a bill which would severely restrict the use of unmanned aerial vehicles (drones) within the state.
House Bill 5217 (HB5217) criminalizes the weaponization of drones and prevents government from using them unless a proper warrant is issued, except for certain emergency situations that are specified in the bill.
The legislation also stops law-abiding citizens from having information about themselves gathered by a government drone unless they provide written consent beforehand. All information that is accidentally gathered from law-abiding citizens during warranted drone use is inadmissible in court and must be destroyed within 48 hours of the incident. Law enforcement is also required make accurate records of their drone use available to the public on their website.
According to a recent WNPR report, ACLU of Connecticut staff attorney David McGuire, pointing out the potential dangers posed by drone technology should it go unchecked by state legislatures, said, “There’s a natural limit on helicopters and planes. You can’t fly them constantly. They’re expensive. They need a hanger. They need a pilot. So they are used when they’re truly necessary. Whereas this technology, if unregulated, would be used with a lot less discretion, in all likelihood.”
Tenth Amendment Center national outreach director Amanda Bowers noted that Connecticut could join a growing chorus of states putting strict limited on drones. “Already, a number of states have passed similar bills into law, and we are expecting more in the coming weeks and months,” she said. “From California to Washington State, and from New York to Missouri, legislators and the general public from left to right want to see a dangerous future stopped before it happens.”
Bills were signed into law in 2013 in Florida, Idaho, Illinois, Oregon, Tennessee, Texas and Virginia. Earlier this year, the South Carolina House passed a similar bill by a vote of 100-0.
Bowers said that this kind of bill has significant ramifications at the federal level because Washington D.C. is pushing and funding drone use at the state level.
“The feds want to push these on the states, and if the states refuse, it’ll foil their plan,” she said. “They already spy on Americans so much that Rand Paul said it numbered in the ‘Gazillions’ after a secret meeting last fall. If the feds can get the states to start buying up and running drones over our cities, they’ll certainly want access to all that surveillance information in the future. It’s important that states begin drawing a line in the sand now – no aerial spying here.”
Bowers said that 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,” she said.
“If enough states pass bills like this, it’ll foil their plans before they ever take off.”
If their plans are not foiled soon, drones constantly lurking in the skies may become a permanent fixture of life in the United States. According to a 2012 FAA estimate, there could be as many as 30,000 drones in the American skies by the end of the decade. If we are not successful right now in stopping or limiting the use of government drones, the 4th Amendment and basic privacy rights for individuals may be snuffed out forever.
HB5217 would impose tough regulations against the use of government drones that could keep Big Brother at bay in Connecticut and set a good example for other states. It has been referred to the Joint Committee on Judiciary where it will need to pass through a majority before it can be voted upon by the whole house.
If you live in Connecticut: Click HERE to find out what steps you can take to support HB5217.
If you live in another state: Take action to limit drone use in your state HERE.