By Shaun Rundle, Government Affairs and Public Safety Specialist
CPOA and other law enforcement associations have been responding to growing Capitol interest for privacy concerns topics related to data collection. As a growing number of agencies in California adopt and utilize unmanned aircraft, lawmakers in Sacramento have been introducing a host of bills dealing with privacy concerns that use of the devices may bring. So far in 2016 several drone bills have been introduced and heard in policy committees. While a series of failed bills set restrictions for flying the devices over public buildings, one bill seeks to restrict law enforcement use of unmanned aircraft.
One piece of legislation that is still active attempts to place strict requirements on law enforcement drone use. This bill isAB 1820 by Assemblyman Bill Quirk (D-Hayward). Essentially AB 1820 regulates the use of unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) by state and local law enforcement agencies by requiring that agencies use the devices only under the use of a search warrant, unless certain exemptions apply.
These two exemptions are:
-An exigent circumstance exists
-An agency has a written public agreement with another agency for use across jurisdictions
The bill also mandates that before using UAS, an agency must first develop and make publicly available a policy on the department’s usage of drones. CPOA opposes AB 1820. The bill was approved in Assembly Public Safety Committee, but failed passage in Privacy and Consumer Protection Committee. It was granted reconsideration, however, and garnered enough support to move it onto Appropriations, where it now awaits a hearing.
Senator Ted Gaines (R-El Dorado Hills) represents a large rural area of California and had also introduced a series of drone bills. Of the five bills Senator Gaines introduced in 2016, only one remains active. The bill is:
Would further limit the exposure to civil liability of an emergency responder, defined as a paid or an unpaid volunteer or private entity acting within the scope of authority implicitly or expressly provided by a public entity or a public employee to provide emergency services, for damages to an unmanned aircraft or unmanned aircraft system, if the damage was caused while the emergency responder was performing specific emergency services and the unmanned aircraft or unmanned aircraft system was interfering with the provision of those emergency services. This bill contains other related provisions and other existing laws.
The following Gaines bills failed an April 22nd deadline to be heard in a policy committee, and are therefore dead.
Would specifically prohibit a person who is prohibited from coming within a specified distance of another person, from operating an unmanned aircraft system in a way that causes an unmanned aircraft, as those terms are defined, to fly within the prohibited distance of the other person, or from capturing images of the other person by using an unmanned aircraft system. By creating a new crime, the bill would impose a state-mandated local program. This bill contains other related provisions and other existing laws.
Would, unless authorized by federal law, make it an infraction to knowingly and intentionally operate an unmanned aircraft or unmanned aircraft system on the grounds of, or less than 350 feet above ground level within the airspace overlaying, a public school providing instruction in kindergarten or grades 1 to 12, inclusive, during school hours and without the written permission of the school principal or higher authority, or his or her designee, or equivalent school authority.
Would make it unlawful to knowingly, intentionally, or recklessly operate an unmanned aircraft or unmanned aircraft system, as defined, in a manner that prevents or delays the extinguishment of a fire, or in any way interferes with the efforts of firefighters to control, contain, or extinguish a fire. The bill would make a violation of this prohibition punishable by imprisonment in a county jail not to exceed 6 months, by a fine not to exceed $5,000, or by both that imprisonment and fine. By creating a new crime, this bill would impose a state-mandated local program. This bill contains other related provisions and other existing laws.
Would make a person who knowingly and intentionally operates an unmanned aircraft system on or above the grounds of a state prison or a jail guilty of a misdemeanor. The bill would make these misdemeanor provisions inapplicable to a person employed by the prison or jail acting within the scope of his or her employment, or a person who receives prior permission from the Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation or the county sheriff. This bill contains other related provisions and other existing laws.