Florida bans drones to keep cops from spying on citizensby Dara Kam | April 25th, 2013
Police, sheriffs and other law enforcement agencies won’t be able to use drones to spy on Floridians except in special emergencies under a new law that goes into effect on July 1.
Gov. Rick Scott signed into law the “Freedom from Unwarranted Surveillance Act” today as the bill’s sponsors – Sen. Joe Negron, R-Stuart, and Rep. Ritch Workman, R-Melbourne – looked on. The new law goes into effect on July 1.
Negron, the powerful Senate budget chief and a professed libertarian, said the prohibition is necessary to protect Floridians’ privacy.
“A lot of times legislators react to events rather than set ground rules before the events occur,” Negron told reporters. “There’s an industry that wants to sell hundreds of thousands of these drones all over the country. Before they’re up in the sky hovering around monitoring people in their cars and their backyards, I think it was a good idea to say here’s the rules we’re going to have in Florida on that. I think that we’re right on time to make sure that we protect people’s privacy.”
When asked if the law is necessary, Scott said: “The real need for this is the fact that we want our own privacy. We believe in the Fourth Amendment.”
The bill includes exceptions allowing the use if:
_ The secretary of the U.S. Dept. of Homeland Security decides a high risk of a terrorist attack exists;
_ Sheriffs, police or other law enforcement agencies first obtain a search warrant;
_ A law enforcement agency has reasonable suspicion that swift action is necessary to prevent imminent danger to life, such as to search for a missing child or stop the escape of a suspect.
The state’s sheriffs wanted to allow the drones to be used to monitor large-scale public events such as the Super Bowl. But Negron refused to budge on the issue.
“There’s exceptions. The House and Senate worked with law enforcement to make sure we can do the right thing in times of emergency, if there’s safety, things like that. But look, I believe in privacy,” Scott said.