Senator Drafts Bill To Restrict Drone Use By Law Enforcement

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HUNTSVILLE, Ala.(WHNT)-State lawmakers are pondering legislation that would put a leash on the eye in the sky.

Sen. Paul Sanford (R-Huntsville) recently filed SB 317, which would restrict the use of domestic drones by law enforcement agencies in Alabama. The bill would outlaw authorities from conducting so-called "drone patrols" by prohibiting them from using drones to collect evidence or information.

The proposed law would still allow law enforcement agencies to use drones for a few notable exceptions. Those scenarios include credible intelligence indicating a high-risk terrorist attack, court-approved search warrants that authorize specific surveillance, and a drone search that could prevent imminent loss of life. More than thirty other states have filed similar legislation since the beginning of the year, with Virginia lawmakers being the first to pass a drone limit measure earlier this month.

"We just wanted to make sure that the average citizen just didn't feel like they were going to be watched 24-7," said Sanford, who cited newfound concerns over privacy invasion as the reason for filing the bill. "I've gotten a lot of response from average citizens that are kind of afraid that the government is just going to have drones flying around everywhere in the air with cameras down on everyday people, just looking for criminal activity with no specific instance in mind...People just want to make sure that the government uses them [drones] in an appropriate manner, and that the checks and balances to ensure individual rights are protected."

Sanford filed the bill in the same week that the city of Huntsville announced its bid to be a domestic drone test site, but he said the timing of both events was just a coincidence. The proposed law would also make drone-gathered evidence inadmissible in court unless it fell under one of the three exceptions, and would authorize civil lawsuits against law enforcement agencies who violate the act.

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