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Drone legislation

Texas bans drones used for surveillance

Saturday, June 08, 2013 by: J. D. Heyes
Tags: drone legislation, Texas, police surveillance


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(NaturalNews) The drumbeat of liberty and freedom continues to beat the loudest in Texas, as lawmakers there recently passed a bill that would outlaw the use of drones for surveillance.

According to the Houston Chronicle the bill, which has been passed by both the House and Senate, would also permit Texans to monitor the actions of law enforcement personnel, presumably with cell phones or other commonly used electronic devices.

The measure, House Bill 912, which was authored by Rep. Lance Gooden, R-Terrell, would make it a Class C misdemeanor for most uses of a drone for surveillance of individuals without their prior consent. The legislation also punishes as a Class B misdemeanor any resultant distributing of images captured by the surveillance. Image distribution also carries a fine of up to $10,000.

'Our legislative intent was to have law enforcement be able to use drones'

There are some exemptions, however, per the Chronicle:

House Bill 912 carries more than 40 exemptions, including one that permits members of the media to use drones to photograph and record breaking news activity. According to the Federal Aviation Administration, more than 30,000 unmanned aircraft are expected to be in use in the U.S. by 2020. It now heads to the governor's desk for approval.

The bill's sponsor in the Legislature's upper chamber, Sen. Craig Estes, R-Wichita Falls, said before the Senate approved the bill 26-5 that one exemption would need further clarification. That exemption allows anyone who lives within 25 miles of the U.S.-Mexico border to use drones for surveillance, presumably to give landowners the ability to monitor their property for illegal alien and drug-running activities.

Estes says that's not the case.

"Our legislative intent was to have law enforcement be able to use drones," he said, according to the paper, adding that "we don't want private citizens to be able to use drones at the border, either."

Whether or not that measure gets worked out is an issue for Texans and their elected representatives. But what is more clear is that the Lone Star State is interested in protecting the privacy rights of its citizens against warrantless spying by government, law enforcement and the general public alike.

The measure, known as the "Texas Privacy Act," contains other exceptions, such as allowing police to use drones to pursue known felons or conduct criminal investigations. Any use of drones to investigate misdemeanor crimes will require a search warrant from a court of law. Also, drone usage to survey disasters, accidents and potential hazardous waste spills will be permitted.

One further exemption allows media organizations to monitor major news events with drones.

"With the privacy and property rights of Texans, it is important that specific safeguards are put into place which govern the purpose and manner in which drones may be used," said Gooden.

Other states led the way

In addition to Texas, other states are moving to protect the privacy rights of their citizens in the Electronic Age. Included among them is Idaho which became the second state to ban unregulated drone use last month. Gov. C.L. "Butch" Otter signed a measure restricting the use of unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) by public entities and mandates that before drones can be used police must obtain proper search warrants.

The measure, which received good support in both chambers of the Idaho legislature, "strictly prohibits the use of drones to spy on anyone in the state, or to conduct surveillance of their private property, without the person's express written consent," InfoWars.com reported.

Virginia became the first state to pass legislation restricting drone usage. The measure was signed into law in February, when the General Assembly approved a two-year moratorium on the deployment of drones.

Gov. Bob McDonnell, however, is a fan of drone usage, especially for law enforcement purposes, and he has actively sought to weaken the legislation to allow certain uses by key parties.

Sources for this article include:

http://www.infowars.com/texas-bans-drone-surveillance/

http://blog.chron.com

http://blog.mysanantonio.com

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