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Drones soon banned in Florida?

By   /   January 15, 2013  /   2 Comments

TALLAHASSEE — Unmanned surveillance drones may be preparing to lift off across the nation, but Florida may be spared from such a fate after all.

At least that’s the assessment of state Sen. Joe Negron, R-Port St. Lucie, who successfully brought forth a bill to limit the authority of law enforcement agencies to use drones in the Sunshine State.

BAN ‘EM: Negron doesn’t want law enforecement agencies to have the authority to collect evidence from unmanned surveillance drones.

“I support the use of drones to kill terrorists in Afghanistan and Iraq, but not to monitor the activities of law-abiding Floridians,” Negron said after his bill passed in the Criminal Justice Senate Subcommittee. “This bill will protect the privacy of our citizens while providing law enforcement the tools necessary to respond to emergencies.”

Dubbed the Freedom from Unwarranted Surveillance Act, the bill restricts law enforcement agencies from using drones to gather evidence against suspects and provides a legal mechanism to sue the government if breaks this promise in any form.

It is the first piece of legislation to move forward for approval in the regular session of the Legislature in March.

“Technology has pushed us into a new frontier in privacy, and the principles behind Senator Negron’s bill establish guideposts for how to keep Floridians both safe and free in this new era,” said Howard Simon, executive director of the ACLU of Florida, who praised the bill.

GROUNDED: The bill would keep drones out of the state of Florida and prohibit the government from using the aircraft against suspects.

“The ACLU has serious concerns about unregulated, warrantless use of unmanned aerial vehicle surveillance technology to collect information about individuals,” said Simon. “The pace by which surveillance technology has evolved in recent years has so far outstripped the pace at which laws have adapted to protect individuals’ privacy.

“Strict controls are needed to help guide law enforcement in using surveillance technology. Without those limits, we risk inching further into a society under constant and permanent surveillance,” he said in a statement.

But that doesn’t exactly mean that drones will never see the light of day in Florida.

The bill provides an exception in the “high risk” of a terrorist act, only allowing the deployment of drones if it is specifically authorized the secretary of the Department of Homeland Security because of a credible intelligence risk.

This provision is expected to be discussed at the beginning of the legislative session in March.

Contact Yaël Ossowski, Watchdog.org’s Florida Bureau Chief, at Yael@Watchdog.org

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Yaël has worked as a multimedia journalist in Philadelphia, Charlotte, Tampa, and Vienna, and his writings have appeared in the Washington Examiner, The Gaston Gazette, Reason Magazine, Sunshine State News, Wisconsin Reporter, and PanAmerican Post. He speaks four languages and his hometown is Saint-Hyainthe, Québec. His personal website is Yael.ca and his PGP key is available here.

  • http://www.facebook.com/terry.murphy.564 Terry Murphy

    I would NEVER have given the DHS ANY excuse to put drones over us. They simply cannot be trusted to play by the rules.

  • Glen Gibellina

    I’m buying some chickens….
    We
    still have the 2nd Amendment and Usque ad coelum as a principle of
    private ownership was formally given the boot by the U.S. Supreme Court
    in U.S. v. Causby (1946). The court laid down a new rule: you’ve got air
    rights only insofar as they’re essential to the use and enjoyment of
    your land. Military aircraft using a nearby airport during World War II
    had flown over the Causby family chicken farm at an altitude of 83 feet,
    scaring the chickens and rendering the property unfit for the raising
    thereof. The court generously ruled that the Causbys had a right to
    compensation. Big of them, wasn’t it? Bah. Under the previous system Old
    Man Causby could have taken out a few bombers with his shotgun, and
    that would have been that.

    If
    it’s of any comfort, usque ad coelum didn’t completely disappear; it
    was merely transferred to nations. The 1944 Chicago Convention on
    International Civil Aviation declared that each country had sovereignty
    over the airspace above its territory. Thus Soviet leaders were within
    their rights when they ordered the destruction of commercial flight KAL
    007 after it strayed over their territory in 1983. Sure, the loss of
    hundreds of innocent people was unfortunate. But you can be sure the
    next guys who flew near Russia brought a map or over my house.