In a rush to beat technology to the punch, lawmakers across the country are scrambling to limit how and when law enforcement can use drones. Arizona is no different, with a few different bills on the table that would set regulations for the unmanned aircraft.
According to the Verde Independent, there are two bills set for debate. While they are slightly different, both would limit law enforcement from using drones unless they have a warrant and both would make any evidence gathered via drone without a warrant inadmissible in civil or criminal court proceedings.
Drones are small robotic aircraft piloted from the ground. While many of us picture the armed drones being used to target people overseas, domestic drones are not armed yet (despite talks of them being used to deploy chemical or sound controls). Right now, it seems, the main issue is what they see and the intelligence they can gather.
Privacy advocates say these machines shouldn’t be able to spy on people without a warrant, and rightfully so. Knowing Big Brother is flying overhead and gathering information without a warrant would be quite disconcerting.
Cops see drones as a potentially useful investigative tool. They say the aircraft could be used in a variety of ways including to look for missing people, investigate potential grow houses using heat sensors, to gather intelligence on potential terrorists, and monitor damage from disasters like fires. But, they could also be used in a more sinister fashion—to spy on protestors or innocent civilians. And that’s where the concern lies.
Both proposed bills have exceptions to the warrant requirement. Those include in cases where there is credible intelligence of a high risk of a terror attack or where the potential destruction of life or property is imminent. The latter exception has been used by police to skirt warrant requirements under a wide variety of circumstances in the past, however, so it would likely open the door to abuse in the case of drones as well.
In addition to limiting police drone use, the state is considering signing up to host one of 6 future sites where the FAA would allow people to come in and test drones. Some see it as a good opportunity to bring money into the state—others don’t want it anywhere near them.
Technology moves fast. And when police agencies are given federal dollars to purchase new toys, they will. Now lawmakers must ensure that rules exist so these drones won’t encourage privacy violations any more than any other form of surveillance.
If you are charged with a crime, surveillance evidence can be used against you in court. Whether it’s information police learned by watching you or camera footage from a business, it could be fair game. Contact our offices today, whether you are charged with a drug offense or robbery. We can help.