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Senate Committee Approves Drone Ban in Florida Skies, With Some Police Exceptions

| January 15, 2013

They may yet have a piece of the sky. (M Hooper)

They may yet have a piece of the sky. (M Hooper)

Trying to blunt police opposition, the sponsor of a bill to ban unmanned drone aircraft use by law enforcement in Florida has agreed to exceptions for use with a search warrant or in certain “exigent” circumstances, such as when it might be needed to find a child in danger.

The measure (SB 92) was approved unanimously Tuesday by the Senate Criminal Justice Committee with the new exceptions in it.

While representatives of the Florida Sheriff’s Association and the Florida Police Chiefs Association said they were pleased the sponsor, Sen. Joe Negron, was trying to ease some concerns police have about the possible loss of drones as a law enforcement tool, they stopped short of supporting the bill. The measure already had an exception for uses needed for national security.

Drones are currently in use by about a half dozen Florida law enforcement agencies, according to Negron, R-Stuart, who said the bill is his top priority this year.

“There’s always a delicate balance between freedom and security,” Negron said. And the line has to be drawn somewhere on how far police can go in watching people.

The amendments added to the bill acknowledge that there may be extraordinary circumstances when unmanned aerial cameras might be acceptable, Negron said after the committee.

“My goal is that it’s not a routine practice,” Negron said.

The exceptions to the ban added to the bill Tuesday say that drones could be used by police in Florida to counter a high risk of a terrorist attack by a specific person or organization. They also could be used if the agency first gets a search warrant.

The other exception says that they would be allowed if exigent circumstances exist, and say that requires “reasonable suspicion that under particular circumstances, swift action is needed to prevent imminent danger to life or serious damage to property, or to forestall the imminent escape of a suspect or the destruction of evidence.”


The measure has several more stops in the Senate, needing approval from the Judiciary Committee, a budget subcommittee and the full Appropriations Committee. The bill is filed in the House (HB 119) by Rep. Ritch Workman, but hasn’t been referred to any committees yet.

Negron said many Florida residents have no idea that police agencies are contemplating the use of remote control planes carrying cameras for investigative purposes. Police in Miami have been testing drones for several years, and have two drones – though so far their use has been limited.

Allies for Negron on the issue include the ACLU, which called a year ago for limits on use of drones for domestic security and police work. The Republican Party also had a line in its platform this year supporting limits on aerial surveillance.

–David Royse, News Service of Florida

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6 Responses for “Senate Committee Approves Drone Ban in Florida Skies, With Some Police Exceptions”

  1. Magnolia says:

    Why is it only Republicans who worry about unauthorized surveillance? Shouldn’t be all be more vocal about this? What next? Cameras in our homes?

    When does it end?

  2. NortonSmitty says:

    I believe these are the most effective tools I have ever seen for fighting terrorism! Because if they really “Hate us for our Freedoms”, they can stop now.

    • Brad says:

      well Norton , they are not talking about the military , they are talking about local police forces using them and I guess Negron took a bribe , because he certainly changed his toon , he was talking about a complete ban from cops using them , now they basically use them anytime they want and lie about the circumstances, bad enough every street corner in Palm Coast has one, this place is turning into Nazi Germany

      • NortonSmitty says:

        (I hit the return accidentally)
        And as if that wasn’t bad enough, check what’s already in use here: http://www.alternet.org/5-creepy-new-ways-police-intrude-your-rights?page=0%2C1

        Handcuffs with built-in Tasers so they Police don’t have to go to all the extra work of unsheilding their own Taser after YOU”RE IN HANDCUFFS! Or more likely be able to “accidentally” hit the shock button when nobody’s around watching.

        Or mobile DNA/Retina/Fingerprint scanners to get the entire populace in the crime database by the inevitable “routine” traffic stop..

        Or mobile license plate readers through the dashcams linked to the front seat laptop. So as they drive around your plate flashes your picture, address, history, wants/warrants and even if your car insurance has lapsed, as my girlfriend found out recently in South Carolina where this is an arrestable offense. These were donated to law enforcement there by the fine public spirited folks at Allstate Insurance. Surprise! Almost every jurisdiction has had one or two for a while now. It’s only a matter of time before they all do.

        Now we have Drones overhead, facial recognition software linked to every CCTV camera in every car, drone and red light cam, warrant-less wiretaps, laws against videotaping police and of course the coming creeping ban on privately owned weapons, all for our protection.

        And yet somehow I feel less safe.

  3. FM says:

    And so it begins. Spy camera’s on every intersection, school, government building, shopping malls, sports arena’s. Now they take to the air, first with only camera’s, next with weapons………….Now what we need is a GENIUS to develop a device that can interfere with the frequencies of these camera’s and make them USELESS !!!!! Oh yes, its in the works !!

  4. Sea Dog says:

    I would have thought the drones might be useful to prevent drug smuggling, maybe the Floriida goverment does not have enought to do. Especially elected officals. I am starting to think they are all retards (sorry) mentally handicaped.

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