More Drone Regulation

S.498 would make it a crime for a private individual to fly a drone equipped with a camera or recording device over the property of another. The bill would also prohibit law enforcement agencies from using drones to gather evidence or other information in this state without a legally issued search warrant, with some exceptions.

The exceptions to the requirement of a search warrant include “to counter a high risk of a terrorist attack by a specific individual or organization if the United States Secretary of Homeland Security determines that credible intelligence indicates that there is such a risk” and “if the law enforcement agency possesses 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.”

Finally, the bill would allow an aggrieved party to bring a civil suit against law enforcement who violate this law, and would specify that evidence collected in violation of this law is not admissible in court.

S.498 is superior to H.3510, the other drone regulation bill filed this session, in that it doesn’t include a blanket prohibition on private ownership of drones. The bill is also correct to attempt to protect citizens from indiscriminate surveillance by law enforcement. As SCPC has pointed out before, the South Carolina Constitution protects against “unreasonable invasions of privacy” (Article 1, Section 10). The exceptions to the requirement of a warrant are worrying however, as S.498 currently leaves rather large loopholes for law enforcement agencies that wish to misuse drones.

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