Florida Senate Bill Bans Drones From Spying on Citizens

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The Criminal Justice Committee of the Florida Senate voted unanimously to move a bill forward that seeks to ban the police from using drones to spy on citizens.

The summary of the bill (SB 92) titled Freedom from Unwarranted Surveillance Act is as follows:

Searches and Seizures; Citing this act as the ‘Freedom from Unwarranted Surveillance Act’; prohibiting a law enforcement agency from using a drone to gather evidence or other information; authorizing an aggrieved party to initiate a civil action in order to prevent or remedy a violation of the act; prohibiting a law enforcement agency from using in any court of law in this state evidence obtained or collected in violation of the act, etc. (Source)

The bill originally prohibited police from using drones at all, but some concessions were made to accommodate law enforcement.

According to the Associated Press:

The panel amended the bill to make exceptions to the ban for search warrants signed by judges and for certain emergencies such as fires and hostage situations. 

The bill also includes an exception for terrorism-related searches.

The use of drones for terror-related searches will be at the discretion of the Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security:

EXCEPTIONS – This act does not prohibit the use of a drone 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. (Source)

The Act strictly prohibits the use of any evidence gained through drone surveillance, thus taking away some of the motivation for their use.  Additionally, the Act allows for citizens to seek civil action against law enforcement should a drone be wrongly used against them.

The bill still must go through a general vote in the Senate before becoming law.

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