COLUMBUS, Ohio (Dec. 14, 2015) – A bill introduced in the Ohio Senate would restrict the use of drones by state and local law enforcement. The legislation would not only establish important privacy protections at the state level, it would also help thwart the federal surveillance state.

Sen. Michael Skindell (D) and Sen. Kris Jordan (R) introduced Senate Bill 251 (SB251) on Dec. 8. The legislation would prohibit law enforcement use of drones without a warrant in most situations.

Under the proposed law, police would be able to deploy a drone without a warrant in situations where it is reasonable to believe that there is an imminent threat of death or serious physical injury. Even then, the law enforcement agency would be required to file a petition with a court justifying the use of the drone within 48 hours.

HB251 would also allow police to use drones without a warrant to survey a traffic accident scene or search for a missing person.

The legislation includes a complete prohibition on drones armed “with weapons of any kind.”

Any information collected in violation of the law would be inadmissible in court. Any information collected on any person not named in the warrant must be destroyed within 24 hours and may not be used, copied, or disclosed for any purpose. Information collected on the person named in the warrant must be destroyed within 30 says unless there exists reasonable suspicion that it pertains to criminal activity or if it is part of an ongoing investigation.

Finally, the SB251 includes extensive reporting requirements for agencies using drones.

Impact on the Federal Surveillance State

Although the proposed bills focus exclusively on state and local drone use and does not apply directly to federal agencies, it throws a high hurdle in front of some federal programs.

Much of the funding for drones at the state and local level comes from the federal government, in and of itself a constitutional violation. In return, federal agencies tap into the information gathered by state and local law enforcement through fusion centers and a federal program known as the information sharing environment.

According to its website, the ISE “provides analysts, operators, and investigators with information needed to enhance national security. These analysts, operators, and investigators… have mission needs to collaborate and share information with each other and with private sector partners and our foreign allies.” In other words, ISE serves as a conduit for the sharing of information gathered without a warrant.

The federal government encourages and funds a network of drones at the state and local level across the U.S., thereby gaining access to a massive data pool on Americans without having to expend the resources to collect the information itself. By placing restrictions on drone use, state and local governments limit the data available that the feds can access.

In a nutshell, without state and local cooperation, the feds have a much more difficult time gathering information. This represents a major blow to the surveillance state and a win for privacy.


SB251 has yet to be assigned to a committee.

If you live in Ohio: click HERE and follow the steps to help get SB251 passed.

If you live in another state: click HERE to find out what to do to limit drones in your state.

Mike Maharrey

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