State Legislatures Pass Bills Limiting Domestic Drone Use

By:  Raven Clabough
State Legislatures Pass Bills Limiting Domestic Drone Use

With more and more Americans questioning the constitutionality of drone use for surveillance and law enforcement, some state legislatures are attempting to limit the government’s use of drones and restore some of the Constitutional rights on which the use of drones is infringing.

Lawmakers in Washington state and Wisconsin passed bills this week that limit drone use.  

In Washington, House Bill 2789, approved February 17 by an 83-15 vote, specifies that the government’s use of drones be limited to military training, emergency situations when there is an immediate danger or threat of death, to monitor wildlife and the environment, or in the event that a warrant has been obtained (for surveillance).

Filed by Rep. Dave Taylor (R-Moxee), along with five Democrats and six Republicans, the bill bans the use of drones to collect any personal information that “describes, locates, or indexes anything about a person” without a warrant “made in writing, upon oath or affirmation, to a judicial officer … where there is probable cause.” It bans public agencies from obtaining drones without first seeking permission from the appropriate governing body.

The bill also asks that an agency using drones prepare annual reports for the public that describe the use of the drones, and permits anyone who claims that a violation of the drone provisions has hurt their person, business, or reputation could sue the agency for damages, attorney fees, and other litigious costs.

According to Rep. Roger Goodman, D-Kirkland, the bill is useful because technology has made it too easy to watch people without their knowledge.

“This calls for reasonable regulation so we don’t have warrantless searches of the public, to control what might be fishing expeditions,” he said. “HB2789 is a reasonable measure to protect our rights not only under the 4th Amendment to the US constitution, but also under Article I section 7 of the state constitution, which protects privacy to a much greater degree.”

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Photo of drone: AP Images

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