Oklahoma state Senator Raloh Shortey has introduced Senate Bill 2043 to limit drone usage, specifically banning use by law enforcement without a warrant.

The legislation would require law enforcement agencies to obtain a search warrant before using a drone in most cases.

No law enforcement agency may use a drone to gather evidence or other information in a criminal investigation without first obtaining a search warrant pursuant to Section 1221 et seq. of Title 22 of the Oklahoma Statutes. This shall not apply to the use of a drone to assist in an active search and rescue operation, to locate an escaped prisoner, or if a law enforcement officer has reasonable suspicion to believe that the use of a drone is necessary to prevent imminent danger to an individual or to prevent imminent destruction of evidence.

It also has the following penalties:

Whoever sells, transports, manufactures, possesses, or operates any weaponized drone shall be deemed guilty of a felony and upon conviction shall be punishable by a fine of not less than Five Hundred Dollars ($500.00) and no more than One Thousand Dollars ($1,000.00), and by imprisonment in the State Penitentiary for a term not less than one (1) year nor more than five (5) years, or by both such fine and imprisonment.

Whoever uses a drone to photograph, record, or otherwise observe another individual in a place where the individual has a reasonable expectation of privacy is guilty of a misdemeanor. This Req. No. 3189
Page sub-section shall not apply to a law enforcement officer authorized to use a drone pursuant to subsection B of this section.

This bill further prevents privacy abuses.

Evidence or information obtained or collected in violation of this section is not admissible in evidence in any criminal proceeding.

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 Oklahoma airspace with no restrictions.

The bill only limits drone use by state and local government, it will have some serious impact on intended results being pushed by the federal government. 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, DHS issues large grants to local governments so that those agencies can purchase drones. 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.

Action Items

If you are Oklahoma resident, please click here

If you are not an Oklahoma resident, click here to see if your state has introduced or even passed a bill to protect your privacy from drones surveillance.

Kelli Sladick

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