Texas “Anti Drone” Laws Would be Toughest in USA

Jim Forsyth

Texas would have the toughest anti-drone legislation in the country under a bill filed by State Rep. Lance Gooden (R-Terrell).

1200 WOAI’s Michael Board reports that Gooden has introduced a measure which would outlaw the use of drones by individuals, or state or federal law enforcement.

Gooden tells 1200 WOAI news that his bill would have limited exceptions, including allowing drones within 25 miles of the Rio Grande for drug and illegal immigrant interdiction programs, or for use by law enforcement with a valid search or arrest warrant, with ‘probable cause to believe that a person has committed a felony.’

“Do we want out local police departments laying off officers and simply parking drones over our homes to keep an eye on all of us?” Gooden asked.

Gooden’s measure would make it illegal for any image which was taken by a drone-based camera from being used in any civil or criminal court proceeding.

“These drones are going to get so cheap that soon you’ll be able to buy your own drone at Best Buy,” Gooden said.  “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.”

Gooden says his measure is being introduced now, rather than five years from now when drones will become more ubiquitous, because now is the time to come up with laws, before there is a ‘drone lobby’ which will be out in force to protect the drone industry.  He points out if we would have had laws prohibiting texting and driving been passed 15 years ago, texting and driving would not be the problem it is today.

“Soon you will be able to park your own drone over someone’s private property and perform indiscriminate surveillance all day long,” he said.

Gooden’s bill would also prohibit federal law enforcement or federal officials from flying drones over Texas to spy on random citizens.  Only individuals who are suspected with reasonable cause could be the target of drone surveillance, and only with a warrant issued by a judge of an open and public court.

The issue is gaining more steam this week, as the Obama Administration is considering new guidelines on the use of drones to spy on, and even to kill, American citizens.

His bill would also allow a person who was the victim of unauthorized drone surveillance, whether the drone was piloted by an individual or by a government official, to sue that individual for money damages.

Gooden concedes there are many legitimate uses for the new drone technology, from ranchers keeping an eye on cattle to Realtors getting interesting photographs of a home for a sales pitch.  But he says now is the time for Texas to reassert their freedoms under the Fourth Amendment to be free from ‘unreasonable searches and seizures,’ even if that is done by a vehicle in the sky.

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