Oregon Senate votes to restrict police use of drones

By   /   June 10, 2013  /   No Comments

Oregon Senate passes drone legislation

Oregon Senate passes drone legislation

By Shelby Sebens  | Northwest Watchdog

The Oregon Senate on Monday passed legislation aimed at regulating police and government use of drones.

The legislation, House Bill 2710, prohibits the use of drones by law enforcement and government agencies unless authorized by statute. The drones would be allowed for emergency situations such as finding a child lost in the woods or fighting a fire, but police would be restricted in how they can use information gathered by drones.

State Sen. Chip Shields, D-Portland, summed it up well during the Senate discussion.

“This bill says to law enforcement if you want to use drones, fine, just get a warrant first,” he said. The bill does allow an exception for police tracking a suspect who has fled the scene.

The bill passed 23-5 and goes back to the House for consideration of amendments.

The bill restricts how law enforcement can use information gathered from a drone. It also prohibits public bodies from using a drone that has weapon capabilities, such as firing a bullet or other projectile. The legislation also would prohibit local governments from creating their own drone laws to prevent piecemeal regulations across the state.

Lawmakers have been trying all session to craft legislation that protects citizens’ privacy while still allowing for the burgeoning drone market in Oregon to thrive. An earlier bill worried drone hobbyists because it was broadly written and made the use of drones by any unauthorized user a criminal act.

But House Bill 2710 focuses solely on government agencies and law enforcement.

Expect this to just be a start, lawmakers say. They plan to set up an interim working group to study drones and how to legislate the technology.

“This technology is advancing faster than we can potentially keep up with it,” state Sen. Jeff Kruse, R-Roseburg, said.

State Sen. Floyd Prozanski, D-South Lane and North Douglas Counties, hinted that more legislation is to come in the 2014 session.

“There will be next steps,” he said.

Contact Shelby Sebens at Shelby@NorthwestWatchdog.org

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Shelby formerly served as staff reporter for Watchdog.org.