Media Contact

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE - March 5, 2019
CONTACT:  ACLU of Florida Media Office, media@aclufl.org, (786) 363-2737

March 5, 2019

TALLAHASSEE, FL - Yesterday, the Senate Criminal Justice Committee voted to pass Senate Bill 766, which would authorize expanded uses of unmanned aircraft drones by local law enforcement agencies. SB 766 would give law enforcement the ability to use drones for “crowd control,” which could result in mass surveillance practices that infringe on First Amendment rights. It would also allow drones to be used by law enforcement for “collection of evidence” at a crime scene without a warrant.

The companion House version of this bill, HB 75, has already passed two House Committees despite these constitutional concerns.

Kirk Bailey, political director, ACLU of Florida responded to today’s vote saying:

“Without clear regulations guiding the responsible and consistent use of drones by law enforcement, the constitutional rights of Floridians are at risk. Under the bill’s current language, it is unclear what is intended by ‘crowd control’ or how drones would be used for that purpose. It also provides little guidance for law enforcement, allowing the opportunity for abuse or surveillance of protest participation that would undoubtedly chill protected speech.

“It also allows drones to be used by law enforcement for the collection of evidence at a crime scene without a warrant. It fails to include language ensuring that the use of drones for the collection of evidence at a crime scene must be ‘pursuant to applicable warrant requirements.’ In short, this bill could negate the warrant requirement with regard to collecting evidence. We hope to work with the bill sponsors of SB 766 and HB 75 to protect against these unintended consequences of drone technology on the constitutional rights of all Floridians.”

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