California Senate bans warrantless drone surveillance


AFP Photo/Boris Horvat

The California State Senate has approved a bill that will drastically restrict how law enforcement agencies from San Diego to San Francisco can use unmanned aerial vehicles, or drones, for policing purposes.

On Tuesday, the Senate voted 25-8 in favor of the legislation, AB 1327, setting it on course to go before the State Assembly once more for final approval of new amendments tacked on since lawmakers in that chamber last saw the bill in late January and passed it by a margin of 59-5.

Should the Senate give the bill another go-ahead, then the legislation will next likely land on the desk of California Governor Jerry Brown, a democrat, to be signed into law. Once enacted, it will limit law enforcement agencies from conducting drone surveillance by forcing police departments to obtain warrants before putting UAVs in the air, except in certain circumstances, like fires and hostage situations. Additionally, any footage recorded by these aircraft would have to be destroyed by the agencies that collect them within one year.

“The potential for abuse of drones is high and we need to be vigilant to ensure our Constitutional rights are protected,” the bill’s co-author, Democratic Senator Ted Lieu, told Reuters.

“I think it’s very important that we have the external oversight that a warrant provides,” Chris Conley of the American Civil Liberties Union’s Northern California office told Capital Public Radioahead of this week’s vote. “It would help make sure that drones are used appropriately to help keep the community safe, and not in ways that could invade individual rights.”

Despite the overwhelming support for the amendment from both the state’s Assembly and Senate, however, the bill has not brought on board the endorsement of everyone, including police groups that oppose restrictions on their ability to conduct surveillance missions at the drop of a hat.

The legislation “is an inappropriate attempt to impose search and seizure requirements on California law enforcement agencies beyond what is required by the 4th Amendment of the United States Constitution,” the Los Angeles District Attorney’s Office said to Reuters in their opposition to the bill.

Read more at RT News

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