Legislation pending in 31 other states
May 28, 2013
The Texas legislature passed a bill this past weekend that would see a blanket ban on capturing moving or still images on private property with an unmanned drone.
The legislation, House Bill 912, authored by Rep. Lance Gooden, R-Terrell, will make it a Class C misdemeanor for anyone to use a drone for surveillance of an individual without their prior consent. Further distributing any images captured as a result of such activity will be a class B misdemeanor punishable by a fine of up to $10,000.
The bill states that “Each image a person possesses, discloses, displays, distributes, or otherwise uses in violation of this section is a separate offense. An offense under this section for the disclosure, display, distribution, or other use of an image is a Class B misdemeanor.”
Exceptions to the legislation, known as the ‘Texas Privacy Act’, will be police use of drones to pursue known felons or conduct criminal investigations. Using drones to investigate misdemeanors will require a warrant. In addition, use of drones to survey accidents, disasters or potential hazardous spills will be permitted.
Another exemption allows media organisations that have permission to use drones to monitor any major news activity.
“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 Rep. Gooden.
The Senate passed the measure 26-5 Sunday, while House members also passed the measure 140-4. The bill will now go to the desk of Governor Rick Perry.
Texas is the latest trailblazing state to ban warrantless spy drones being used by police or government, in an effort to protect privacy.
Last month, Idaho became the second state in the US to ban drones as Governor C.L. “Butch” Otter signed legislation into law that restricts the use of unmanned vehicles by public agencies, and mandates that warrants must be obtained in order to collect evidence using the technology.
The bill was passed by both the Idaho House and Senate, and it 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.
In February, Virginia became the first state in the US to pass such legislation, as the state General Assembly approved a two year moratorium on drone aircraft, sending the legislation to Gov. Bob McDonnell’s desk.
The move did not surprise anti-drone activists in the state who have pointed to his strong connections with law enforcement.
“He’s a former prosecutor, and law enforcement wants these (drones),” John Whitehead, president of the Charlottesville-based Rutherford Institute, a civil-liberties group said last week.
“Get ready, Virginia. The moratorium is an illusion. We will be one of the leading states” for drone use and technology. Whitehead added.
The approval of the Virginia moratorium came in the wake of the passage of legislation by city officials in Charlottesville, Va to keep drones out of their airspace altogether, making it the first US city to enact such a ban. Whether city officials will be able to extend their ban to federal drone aircraft or not remains to be seen.
Legislation has been introduced by lawmakers in 36 other states to regulate domestic drone use, and bills are still actively being considered in 31 states.
Recent reports have noted that the drone industry is engaged in an all out PR offensive to convince Americans that the unmanned vehicles are more than just tools for spying and assassinations.
Recent surveys suggest that most Americans now have significant reservations about the use of drones by government and law enforcement, with over half believing they have a right to shoot down a drone if it flies over their property without their permission.
Just how strictly the drone bans in Virginia, Texas, and Idaho will be implemented remains to be seen.
Steve Watson is the London based writer and editor for Alex Jones’ Infowars.com, and Prisonplanet.com. He has a Masters Degree in International Relations from the School of Politics at The University of Nottingham, and a Bachelor Of Arts Degree in Literature and Creative Writing from Nottingham Trent University.