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Texas Anti-Drone Bill Amongst “Toughest in Nation” – Criminal and Civil Punishment at Stake
by Ali Papademetriou
Anti drone legislation is beginning to trend in the United States, as many liberty advocates fear that government ability to use unmanned aerial vehicle surveillance on US citizens without a warrant or probable cause is a violation of the Fourth Amendment. SLN recently reported on Montana’s Senate and Virginia’s House voting on each of its state’s anti-drone measures. Among other states to introduce legislation to limit or ban UAV surveillance are Missouri, North Dakota, Indiana, and Florida.
Now joining in the mix is Texas, with HB912, which was introduced by Representative Gooden and co-sponsored by Representative Stephenson. The measure would deem collecting drone surveillance images without a warrant or probable cause a Class C misdemeanor. As TenthAmendmentCenter originally reported, the bill describes that, “Illegal use of unmanned vehicle or aircraft to capture image. (a) A person commits an offense if the person uses or authorizes the use of an unmanned vehicle or aircraft to capture an image without the express consent of the person who owns or lawfully occupies the real property captured in the image…”
As far as the criminal charges, the bill specifies, “A civil penalty of $1,000, subject to adjustment of the dollar amount under for each image of the plaintiff or of the real property owned or legally occupied by the plaintiff that is captured, possessed, disclosed, displayed, distributed, or otherwise used”.
Likewise, the HB83 stipulates that images that someone “possesses”, “discloses”, “displays”, “distributes”, or “otherwise uses” is subject to a Class C misdemeanor. Moreover, “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.”
Rep. Gooden told WOAI News that there would be some exemptions to the bill, such as enabling drones to be flown within 25 miles of the Rio Grande River for drug and illegal immigrant prohibition programs, as well as enabling law enforcement to use the technology only when a legitimate search or arrest warrant and probable cause of committing a felony are present. Nonetheless, the news organization described Gooden’s anti-drone legislation to be among the toughest in the nation.
“Do we want our local police departments laying off officers and simply parking drones over our homes to keep an eye on all of us?” Gooden questioned, implying that giving law enforcement an inch may encourage them to take a mile when a drone is concerned.
Gooden also mentioned that drone popularity is gaining momentum. Toy drones are even marketed for children now. “These drones are going to get so cheap that soon you’ll be able to buy your own drone at Best Buy,” explained Gooden.
He went on to say, “You could park it a foot above the ground in your neighbor’s back yard and film into their house. If someone wanted to film your children out playing by the pool and put that video on the Internet, as creepy as that sounds,” giving an example as to why it would he is proposing a misdemeanor for drone-captured imaging by anyone without a warrant or the consent of the subject being spied on.