A bill under consideration this year in the North Dakota State Legislature would restrict the use of unmanned aerial vehicles (drones) by government officials, banning their use in surveillance by law enforcement without a warrant based on probable cause.

Introduced by Introduced by State Rep. Rick C. Becker, House Bill 1328 (HB1328) would require law enforcement agencies to obtain a warrant before using a drone for surveillance purposes.

The bill reads, in part, as follows:

Except as provided in section 4 of this Act, a law enforcement agency may not use an unmanned aircraft for surveillance of a person within the state or for the surveillance of personal or business property located within the borders of the state to gather evidence or other information pertaining to criminal conduct, or conduct in violation of a statute or regulation except to the extent authorized in a warrant issued by a court which satisfies the requirements of the Constitution of North Dakota.

The bill also states that a warrant to conduct drone surveillance can only be issued during the investigation of a felony and specifically cannot be used for “misdemeanors, traffic infractions, or other non – felony violations of law.”

The warrant for the drone must contain a data collection statement that includes the people with the power to authorize the use of the drone, the locations in which it will operate, the maximum period of time it will operate for each flight, and whether or not it will collect information about individuals or groups. The warrant also has to state how this information will be used, where it will be disclosed, how long it will be retained, and if it will be destroyed and if so in what manner.

Unfortunately, the bill does not prohibit the use of drones when patrolling borders, albeit it does say that in such circumstances it has to be used in order to stop illegal entry. It also provides exceptions for the warrant when there are weather emergencies and other similar events.

At the same time, the bill contains a vital provision banning the use of drones on people “engaged in the lawful exercise of the constitutional right of freedom of speech and freedom of assembly.”

Currently HB1328 Joint Judiciary Committee.

Such prohibitions would bring nearly all nefarious use of drones by government agencies to an end in North Dakota.

Although drone use would still be permitted in specific circumstances, these bills set a nearly-total prohibition on their use in areas of great concern, warrantless surveillance.

Tenth Amendment Center communications director Mike Maharrey has noted that bills such as this have significant ramifications at the federal level because Washington D.C. is pushing and funding drone use at the state level. He noted that 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 feds want to push these on the states, and if the states refuse, it’ll foil their plan,” he said. “They already spy on Americans so much that Rand Paul said it numbered in the ‘Gazillions’ after a secret meeting with intelligence officials. If the feds can get the states to start buying up and running drones over our cities, they’ll certainly want access to all that surveillance information in the future. It’s important that states begin drawing a line in the sand now – no aerial spying here.”

“If enough states pass bills like these, it’ll foil their plans before they ever take off.”


For North Dakota: To support this bill, follow the steps at HERE.

All Other States: Take steps to stop warrantless drone spying HERE.

TJ Martinell

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