House bill to limit drone surveillance without a warrant clears Senate committee

03/14/2017 12:16 PM

FRANKFORT – A House bill that would require police to get a warrant before engaging in drone surveillance in most situations cleared the Senate Committee on Judiciary on Tuesday.

House Bill 291, sponsored by Rep. Diane St. Onge, R-Lakeside Park, which passed by a 6-2 vote in the committee, would require a judicial warrant specifically naming the targeted individual before police could use a drone for surveillance in most situations. The proposed law would allow warrantless use of a drone when “exigent circumstances” exist.

HB291 would require police to minimize data collection from non-targeted individuals and property. The drone could not use facial recognition or other biometric matching technology on a person not named in a warrant. Any non-targeted data would have to remain confidential and could only be disclosed by a court order.

Evidence gathered in violation of the law would not be admissible in any criminal, civil or administrative proceeding in the state, or for the enforcement of any state or local law.

Sen. Danny Carroll, R-Paducah, a retired law enforcement office, who voted against the legislation along with Sen. Ray Jones, D-Pikeville, voiced his concern to St. Onge about possibly hampering some police investigations.

“I’m having a hard time understanding why we would want to limit the use of this tool any more strict than we would our own eyes,” Carroll said. “This tool is an extension of our own eyes.”

“If you can see this as a law enforcement officer, than the drone can see this, and the drone is an extension of you, so you could use the drone,” St. Onge said.

Kentucky State Police Commissioner Rick Sanders supports the legislation and admitted that in the beginning, he had the same concerns that Carroll expressed during the committee hearing.

“We’re trying to avoid people from viewing someone’s bedroom with a drone, but we also want to cautious and not to handcuff the law enforcement people if they’re over a public place trying to watch what’s going on by some people doing activity that they shouldn’t be doing,” Sanders said. “We’re trying to balance expectation of privacy with law enforcement and we worked a lot on this bill in trying to that.”


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