Will Police Drones Destroy the Fourth Amendment?

By:  Joe Wolverton, II, J.D.
11/06/2012
       
Will Police Drones Destroy the Fourth Amendment?

Although the president’s use of drones to execute the war on terror and those he assumes are associated with it has so far occurred only outside the United States, soon drones will slice through the domestic skies, as well. While the sight of drones over U.S. cities and towns is rare now, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) predicts that by 2020, 30,000 of these unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV) will be patrolling American airspace.

Although the president’s use of drones to execute the war on terror and those he assumes are associated with it has so far occurred only outside the United States, soon drones will slice through the domestic skies, as well. While the sight of drones over U.S. cities and towns is rare now, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) predicts that by 2020, 30,000 of these unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV) will be patrolling American airspace.

Scores of these UAVs will be deployed by state and local law enforcement, adding to the many that will be sent airborne by the federal government.

In a report released as part of a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) lawsuit, the FAA revealed that it has approved drone licenses for at least 18 organizations, including police departments in Seattle, Washington, and North Little Rock, Arkansas. A story published November 3 in The Hill reports that Houston, Texas; Miami-Dade County, Florida; and Arlington, Texas, are also ready to launch their high-tech eyes in the sky as soon as the ok is given by the federal government.

Aviel Sanchez of the Miami-Dade County Police Department is quoted in The Hill piece saying that although “his department received FAA authorization in July 2011,” it has not sent a drone airborne.

“It's nice to have that capability. If it does ... provide a service while safeguarding our property, our personnel and the citizens, then by all means, we'll use that," Sanchez said, as reported by The Hill.

It is the use of those enhanced capabilities that is worrisome to constitutionalists.

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Photo of Predator UAV: AP Images

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