A bipartisan coalition of delegates and senators in Maryland has introduced legislation to limit drone use.

Delegate Samuel Rosenberg, along with three cosponsors, introduced HB0847 to stop warrantless drone surveillance.

A Senate companion bill, SB0926, was introduced by Senators Jamie Raskin, along with three cosponsors.

The bills prohibit any agent of the state or a political subdivision of the state from operating a drone for the purpose of receiving or disclosing information acquired through the operation of the drone except under specific circumstances. These bills only authorizes the use of drones by law enforcement in a certain manner in accordance with a warrant or court order, with a few carefully prescribed exceptions. The bills also prohibit data collected without a warrant to be deleted within a certain time period.

HB0847 and SB0926 provide other safeguards, outlining how certain data collection by drones are prohibited, as well prohibiting the arming of drones in the state of Maryland.

While some might find the exceptions allowing drone use troubling, the bill represents a significant improvement over the status quo. As things stand, drones can be flown over Maryland airspace with no restrictions.

In a Washington Post article the representatives from both houses in Maryland spoke out against potential privacy abuses from drone surveillance and limitation on law enforcement.

“The technology has gotten way out in front of the law,” said Sen. Jaime Raskin (D-Montgomery), one of four Democrats and two Republicans who attended the news conference organized by the American Civil Liberties Union of Maryland. “We need to re-establish the balance as it pertains to these technologies.

“Law enforcement needs to be able to use new technologies to protect public safety, but they also need to operate with procedural safeguards that protect our liberties,” said Sen. Christopher Shank. “Upholding the standard of probable cause for searches will ensure law enforcement has the tools they need without diminishing the rights of citizens.” ”

Maryland’s ACLU Public Policy Director, Sara Love, voiced support for both bills.

“It is time for sensible, constitutional protections that limit the government’s ability to conduct surveillance and retain private data about where we go, who we talk to, and what we do without individualized suspicion that we have committed a crime.”

Action Items

In Maryland:  Take steps to support limits on drones HERE.

Other States:  Contact your state legislators today – urge them to introduce similar legislation.  Model bills and contact infoHERE.

Kelli Sladick

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