For Immediate Release: April 26, 2013
Florida state and local law enforcement agencies utilizing drones will now do so under carefully prescribed limits.
On Thursday, Gov. Rick Scott signed The Freedom from Unwarranted Surveillance Act into law.
“I like privacy,” he said.
SB92 prohibits any state or local law enforcement agency from using unmanned drones to gather evidence or other information without a warrant except “to counter a high risk of a terrorist attack by a specific individual or organization if the United States Secretary of Homeland Security determines that credible intelligence indicates that there is such a risk,” or if “swift action is needed to prevent imminent danger to life or serious damage to property, to forestall the imminent escape of a suspect or the destruction of evidence, or to achieve purposes including, but not limited to, facilitating the search for a missing person.”
The law also opens the door for any person whose privacy is violated by a drone to take civil action and would also make any evidence gathered in violation of the act inadmissible in court.
“This is something all Floridians should be proud of,” Scott said. “We shouldn’t have unreasonable surveillance of ourselves.”
Florida Tenth Amendment center state chapter coordinator Andrew Nappi pointed out that even with the exceptions, the new law represents a huge step forward in protecting the privacy of Floridians and the millions who visit the Sunshine State each year. Before Thursday, law enforcement agencies could deploy drones any place, any time, for any reason, with no limits. The Miami-Dade Police Department, and the Orange and Polk county sheriff’s offices already have authorization to use drones. Nappi said many in the law enforcement community oppose the requirement of warrants.
“What many people don’t realize is that Florida AG Pam Bondi and the sheriffs oppose another bill that would require a search warrant to search cell phones. These are not people who you want to give unrestrained drone search and surveillance powers to,” he said. “The thought of passing nothing and ending up with absolutely no limits on drone use would have been a major problem. This law is a good first step.”
The new law will also put a wrinkle in Department of Homeland Security plans to create a network of drones across the U.S. with the states bearing the operational burden. The federal government serves as the primary engine behind the expansion of drone surveillance carried out by state and local communities. DHS awards large grants to local governments for drone purchases. Once the network becomes established, the feds can step in with requests for “information sharing.”
“There’s an industry that wants to sell hundreds and thousands of these drones all over the country, and before they’re up in the sky, I thought it was a good idea to say, ‘Here are the rules in Florida,’” bill sponsor Sen. Joe Negron said.
Contact: Mike Maharrey
The Tenth Amendment Center exists to promote and advance a return to a proper balance of power between federal and State governments envisioned by our founders, prescribed by the Constitution and explicitly declared in the Tenth Amendment. A national think tank based in Los Angeles, the Tenth Amendment Center works to preserve and protect the principle of strictly limited government through information, education, and activism.