Warrantless drone ban hovers over Brown’s desk

by James Poulos | September 15, 2014 11:04 am

puma.droneWith a stroke of his pen, Gov. Jerry Brown could set the tone for state-level drone policy.

After passing the Assembly and the state Senate, AB1327[1] will await Brown’s signature until the end of September.

Legislation regulating the use of drones by law enforcement has already been proposed or passed in 13 other states. But a combination of timing, public opinion and California’s high profile have catapulted AB1327 to national attention.

Around the country, voters have objected strongly to the prospect of “domestic” drones used to police citizens, and some legislatures have responded. In Virginia,[2] legislators barred both cops and regulators from deploying drones for the next two years, while Florida’s [3]elected representatives considered requiring a warrant for any use of drones by law enforcement.

Sweeping rules, specific restrictions

A bipartisan group of California lawmakers banded together to draft AB1327. Assemblymen Steven Bradford, D-Gardena, Jeff Gorell, R-Camarillo, and Bill Quirk, D-Hayward, proposed to restrict drone policing in several key ways:

In general, Gorell said, the prospect of policing by drone raised a threat to “our reasonable expectation of privacy,” requiring lawmakers to set “guidelines,” according[4] to The Los Angeles Times. But amid the flurry of precise details and legalistic language, one exemption seemed to run contrary to the civil-libertarian flavor of the legislation. “Illegal vegetation,” which law enforcement could search without a warrant over public land, clearly referenced cultivated marijuana plants.

Legislating in advance

California’s cops have reacted negatively to news of AB1327’s passage. Aaron Maguire, legislative counsel for the California State Sheriff’s Association, summed up that organization’s skepticism toward Gorell’s view of privacy. “If you’re going to the 49ers game, or you’re in a public arena,” he said[5], “we don’t think an individual has a reasonable expectation of privacy, and we don’t think a warrant makes sense.”

By any measure, AB1327 can be read as an effort to head off a potential problem at the pass. Reactive legislating has increasingly come under attack by activists and lobbyists with vested interests in pushing against “do-nothing” legislators. In fact, although fears of drone abuse are on the rise, the number of such incidents has so far been very low nationwide. In California, however, a string of events attracting popular attention pushed drone concerns to the front burner more than inside political pressure or partisan agendas.

Backlash crested this summer against law enforcement drones real and imagined:

The decision on limiting drone use now is up to Brown.

  1. AB1327: http://leginfo.legislature.ca.gov/faces/billNavClient.xhtml?bill_id=201320140AB1327
  2. Virginia,: http://www.slate.com/articles/technology/future_tense/2013/02/domestic_surveillance_drone_bans_are_sweeping_the_nation.html
  3. Florida’s : https://www.aclu.org/blog/technology-and-liberty-national-security/florida-poised-become-first-state-regulate
  4. according: http://www.latimes.com/local/politics/la-me-pol-legislature-20140828-story.html
  5. said: http://www.cnet.com/news/california-bill-would-ban-police-drone-spying-without-warrant/
  6. apologize: http://www.cnet.com/news/california-bill-would-ban-police-drone-spying-without-warrant/
  7. placed: http://www.latimes.com/local/lanow/la-me-ln-lapd-drones-federal-basement-20140624-story.html
  8. dispatched: http://www.latimes.com/local/lanow/la-me-ln-drone-staples-not-lapd-20140616-story.html
  9. raised: http://www.tmz.com/2014/07/31/drone-flew-over-hollywood-police-department-lapd-drones-law/

Source URL: https://calwatchdog.com/2014/09/15/warrantless-drone-ban-hovers-over-browns-desk/