A New Mexico bill under consideration this year 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 Sen Gerald Ortiz Y Pino, Senate Bill 303 (SB303) government agencies are banned from using drones except in specific situations.

Law enforcement agencies cannot use a drone to gather evidence or other information pertaining to criminal conduct or conduct in violation of a statute or regulation unless they have obtained a warrant first. The bill also bans the use of drones conduct surveillance of a person or their private property without their prior consent.

SB303 does make exceptions, such as when they have “reasonable suspicion” that it is necessary to prevent “imminent danger to life.”

The bill also states that information gathered without a prior warrant cannot be used in court. Violation of this proposed law would be a misdemeanor. SB303 has been assigned to the Senate Judiciary Committee.

Although drone use would still be permitted in specific circumstances, SB303 set a nearly-total prohibition on their use in areas of great concern, warrantless surveillance.

OffNow director Mike Maharrey noted that New Mexico is ready to join a growing chorus of states putting strict limits on drones. “Already, a number of states have passed similar bills into law, and we are expecting more in the coming weeks and months,” he said. “Legislators and the general public from left to right want to see a dangerous future stopped before it happens.”

Maharrey said that this kind of bill has 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.”

ACTION ITEMS

For New Mexico: To support this bill, take all the steps listed at THIS LINK

For Other States: Take steps to stop warrantless drone spying by clicking HERE.

TJ Martinell