INDIANAPOLIS, February 5, 2014 – On Monday, the Indiana state house gave approval to a bill which would severely restrict the use of drones within the state. The vote was 85-11.
Introduced by Rep. Eric Allan Koch (R-Bedford), House Bill 1009 (HB1009) “Prohibits the use of unmanned aerial vehicles and tracking devices to conduct warrantless searches,” with very limited exceptions.
“This bill concerns balancing privacy and security in the digital age,” said Koch.
The legislation does include some narrow exceptions to the warrant requirement to allay the fears of law enforcement officials who did not want to be hamstrung in emergency situations when a drone’s use might spell life or death.
Even so, the bill also sets strict standards governing the use of a drone when authorized. It also “prohibits the placement of cameras or electronic surveillance equipment on private property to conduct warrantless searches.” Evidence obtained in violation of the act would be “inadmissable as evidence in an administrative or judicial proceeding.”
The ACLU has weighed in on the issue on a national level, warning that “unregulated drone use could pose serious threats to our privacy.”
Tenth Amendment Center national outreach director Amanda Bowers noted that Indiana could join a growing chorus of states putting strict limited on drones. “Already, a number of states have passed similar bills into law, and we are expecting more in the coming weeks and months,” she said. “From California to Washington State, and from New York to Missouri, legislators and the general public from left to right want to see a dangerous future stopped before it happens.”
Bills were signed into law in 2013 in Florida, Idaho, Illinois, Oregon, Tennessee, Texas and Virginia. Last earlier this month, the South Carolina House passed a similar bill by a vote of 100-0.
Bowers said that this kind of bill has significant ramifications at the federal level because Washington D.C. is pushing and funding drone use at the state level.
“The feds want to push these on the states, and if the states refuse, it’ll foil their plan,” she said. “They already spy on Americans so much that Rand Paul said it numbered in the ‘Gazillions’ after a secret meeting last fall. If the feds can get the states to start buying up and running drones over our cities, they’ll certainly want access to all that surveillance information in the future. It’s important that states begin drawing a line in the sand now – no aerial spying here.”
Bowers said that the federal government serves as the primary engine behind the expansion of drone surveillance carried out by states and local communities. The Department of Homeland Security issues large grants to local governments so they can purchase drones. “Those grants, in and of themselves, represent an unconstitutional expansion of power,” she said.
“If enough states pass bills like this, it’ll foil their plans before they ever take off.”
HB1009 now moves on to the Indiana Senate, where it will need to pass out of committee before the full Senate can vote to concur.
Track the status of similar legislation in states around the country here.