The state legislature of Florida has approved a bill protecting citizens’ rights guaranteed by the Fourth Amendment from being abrogated by a federal government about to launch thousands of drones into the domestic skies. The bill has been sent to the desk of Governor Rick Scott.
The state House unanimously passed the Freedom from Unwarranted Surveillance Act (SB 92) on April 17 by a vote of 117 to 0. In so doing, House members followed in the footsteps of their Senate colleagues who had earlier unanimously passed the measure 39 to 0.
If signed by Governor Scott, the bill would forbid federal agents “from using a drone to gather evidence or other information” on citizens of the Sunshine State.
Should a state citizen be the target of an unlawful search and seizure in violation of this bill, he or she would be authorized “to initiate a civil action in order to prevent or remedy” that violation.
As some commentators have observed, the bill is not perfect. Section 4(a) of the bill carves out a dangerous exception to its otherwise commendable constitutional protections.
Section 4(a) authorizes the Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security to launch a drone over Florida (and seemingly violate the Fourth Amendment’s protection of “the right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures”) “to counter a high risk of a terrorist attack by a specific individual or organization.”
That is an enormous loophole, one just large enough for a Hellfire missile. Such an occurrence is not unthinkable in this era when the United States has been declared a battleground and Congress has given the president the power to indefinitely detain any American he believes to be aiding enemies of the state. Ostensibly, drones would be the perfect tool to accomplish such round-up of potential prisoners.
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Photo of drone: AP Images