Minnesota Bills Would Nullify Warrantless Drone Spying

Companion bills in the Minnesota State House and Senate aim to curtail potential abuses by law enforcement pertaining to predator drones.

HF 612 and SF 485 were both introduced last month and they hope to specify guidelines to protect the privacy rights of Minnesotans. HF 612 has been referred to the Public Safety Finance and Policy Committee while SF 485 has been referred to the Senate Judiciary Committee.

The bills state that “law enforcement agency may not use a drone to gather evidence or other information on individuals.” This is meant to safeguard individual citizens from excessive spying by law enforcement. However, some exceptions are given for law enforcement personnel to use drones.

Such exceptions include if it is necessary “to counter a high risk of a terrorist attack by a specific individual or organization if the secretary of the United States Department of Homeland Security determines that credible intelligence indicates that there is this risk” or “if the law enforcement agency first obtains a search warrant authorizing its use” or “if the law enforcement agency possesses reasonable suspicion that, under particular circumstances, swift action is needed to prevent imminent danger to life or serious damage to property, or to forestall the imminent escape of a suspect or the
destruction of evidence.”

Although these exceptions may seem like they could be prone to abuse (ie. DHS fabricating evidence to show that a political dissident is involved in terrorism), Subsection 4 of the bill states that “A person aggrieved by a law enforcement agency’s violation of this section may bring a civil action against the agency.” This will hopefully give the public some recourse in fighting back against unlawful infringements on their rights if the bills are passed. The bills also make evidence collected in violation of these new rules inadmissible in the court of law.

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