SACRAMENTO, Calif. (May 26, 2016) – On Monday, the California Assembly passed a bill that would restrict warrantless drone surveillance by state and local law enforcement. If ultimately signed into law, the legislation would not only establish important privacy protections at the state level, it would also help thwart the federal surveillance state.
Assemblyman Bill Quirk introduced Assembly Bill 1820 (AB1820) on Jan. 22. The legislation would prohibit state and local law enforcement from using a drone to conduct surveillance over private property without obtaining a warrant or getting the owner’s express permission in most cases. The bill also includes a blanket prohibition on weaponized drones.
The Assembly passed AB1820 by a 43-25 margin. It will now move on to the Senate for further consideration.
AB1820 allows a few exceptions to the warrant requirement for exigent circumstances. Police could deploy drones with a reasonable belief that an emergency situation exists and the use of an unmanned aerial vehicle is necessary to prevent immediate danger of death or serious physical injury to any person. Law enforcement could also deploy a drone over private property to determine the proper response during a natural disaster.
The bill would require images, footage, or data obtained through the use of an unmanned aircraft system under these provisions to be permanently destroyed within one year with only a few exceptions.
An amendment passed in the Privacy and Consumer Protection Committee added transparency requirements for any law enforcement agency electing to permit another law enforcement agency to…