A California bill to limit the use of drones remains alive in the State Assembly.

AB1327 would require law enforcement to obtain a warrant based on probable cause before using a drone for investigations in most cases. The legislation allows the use of a drone without a warrant “in emergency situations if there is an imminent threat to life or of great bodily harm, including, but not limited to, fires, hostage crises, ‘hot pursuit’ situations if reasonably necessary to prevent harm to law enforcement officers or others, and search and rescue operations on land or water.” Law enforcement can also utilize drones to assess emergency situations such as traffic accidents and wild fires.

Public agencies other than a law enforcement “may use an unmanned aircraft system, or contract for the use of an unmanned aircraft system, to achieve the core mission of the agency provided that the purpose is unrelated to the gathering of criminal intelligence.”

The bill also places parameters around the use of any information collected by a drone and prohibits weaponized drone unless authorized by federal law.

Assembly members Jeff Gorell (R), Steven Bradford (D), and Bill Quirk (D) introduced AB1327 in 2013. The measure unanimously passed two committee votes with a do-pass recommendation, but was not released to the full Assembly floor last year. It remains active in the current session.

While some might find the exceptions in the bill troubling, it represents a huge improvement over the status quo. As it stands now, law enforcement can use drones in California with absolutely no restrictions. This bill stop drone use without a warrant in most cases.

The federal government wants to have drones in the skies peering down on you at all times. It has even been estimated that 30,000 drones could be in the air by 2020. If we do not take action now, our rights could be lost permanently. While this bill does not specifically address the federal use of drones in California, it does have ramifications. Washington continues to push and fund drone use at the state level.

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.

That is why we have our model legislation, the Privacy Protection Act available for you to take to your local and state government officials and demand that they take action to protect your freedoms.


In California, take action to support HB1327 HERE.

All other states, take action against warrantless drone spying HERE

Mike Maharrey

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