TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (April 25, 2013) – A bill nullifying warrantless drone spying was signed into law by Florida Governor Rick Scott today. The bill passed the House 117-0 and the Senate 39-0.

SB92 prohibits any law enforcement agency from using unmanned drones to gather evidence or other information without a warrant.  It reads, in part:  “A law enforcement agency may not use a drone to gather evidence or other information.”

The bill opens the door for any person whose privacy is violated by a drone to take civil action and would also make any evidence gathered in violation of the act inadmissible in court.

Asked what he liked about the bill Thursday, Scott had a simple response. “I like privacy,” he said.

The act makes its only exception allowing 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.”

Some activists have criticized the bill due to this particular exception for one person in the federal government to authorize its use. While it does raise legitimate concerns, as things exist today,  Floridians have no protections against drone.

Prior to the new law, without The Freedom from Unwarranted Surveillance Act: 

1.  The DHS can call on  Florida to use drones for any “non-emergency” situation it wants.

2. The DHS can call on Florida to use drones for any emergency situation it wants.

3. Law enforcement in Florida can use drones in any situation they want.

Signing the bill into law eliminates number one and number three,  so this bill ushers in a MASSIVE improvement over the status quo.

“As things have been, law enforcement agencies in Florida can use drones any time, anywhere with absolutely no parameters. And they don’t appear to want any limitations on their ability to search without warrants.  What many people don’t realize is the Florida AG Pam Bondi and the Sheriffs oppose another bill that would require a search warrant to search cell phones. These are not people that you want to give unrestrained drone search and surveillance powers to. The thought of passing nothing and ending up with absolutely no limits on drone use would be a major problem.  This law is a good first step.” Florida Tenth Amendment Center chapter coordinator Andrew Nappi said.

Without the new law signed by Governor Rick Scott, the only thing standing between Florida and a full-fledged drone surveillance state is a little funding. And that’s coming down the pike in most states.

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 primary engine behind the expansion of drone surveillance being carried out by states and local communities is the Federal government itself. Department of Homeland Security issues large grants to local governments so that those agencies can purchase drones. Those grants, in and of themselves, are an unconstitutional expansion of power.

The goal? Fund a network of drones around the country and put the operational burden on the states. Once the 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.

In fact, this has been as much as confirmed by a drone industry lobbyist who testified in opposition to a similar bill in Washington State, saying that such restrictions would be extremely destructive to the drone market and industry.

While the The Freedom from Unwarranted Surveillance Act might not have been the perfect bill, it is a solid law which provides strict regulations on drone use. Activists in Florida need to keep the pressure on to ensure that further restrictions are put in place in the future.

LEGISLATION AND TRACKING

If you’re outside of Florida, please contact your own legislators regarding anti-drone legislation. If none has been introduced in your state, you can email them The Privacy Protection Act model legislation.

Track the status of drone nullification in states around the country HERE


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