State among 24 others without laws governing use of drones

 

Posted: Tuesday, September 01, 2015 12:22 AM By Beth Musgrave Lexington Herald-Leader

 

LEXINGTON – In Arkansas, it’s illegal to use drones or unmanned aircraft systems to commit voyeurism.

In Michigan, it’s illegal to use a drone to interfere with or harass someone who is hunting.

In Tennessee, drones may not be used over a correctional facility or at certain open-air events, including fireworks displays.

In West Virginia, drones may not be used to hunt wildlife.

Twenty-six states have enacted laws addressing drones, and six others have adopted resolutions, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.

But in Kentucky, there are no state laws regulating the use of drones.

Yet.

Rep. Diane St. Onge, R-Lakeside Park, has prefiled a bill for the 2016 legislative session that would require law enforcement to get a search warrant before using a drone with cameras to collect evidence. The bill would allow law enforcement to use drones for emergency searches – such as the kidnapping of a child – if a judge signs a search warrant within 48 hours of the search.

The bill also allows businesses, research institutions such as universities, and branches of the military to use drones.

St. Onge, a lawyer whose district consists of parts of Boone and Kenton counties, said she would prefile another bill to address the use of drones over private property.

"There needs to be parameters on what can and cannot be done," St. Onge said. "The law has not caught up with technology."

St. Onge has filed similar bills during the past two legislative sessions, but they did not receive hearings.

The Republican lawmaker has an ally in the American Civil Liberties Union, which is supporting St. Onge’s bill that gives guidelines on how law enforcement may use evidence collected by drones.

"We are in an agreement with Rep. St. Onge that there needs to be parameters for government entities when they are collecting evidence on people," said Kate Miller, program manager for the Kentucky ACLU.

St. Onge said she hoped that recent media reports and the confusion over who may use drones and for what reasons would spur more interest in both bills during the legislative session that begins in January.

In late July, a Bullitt County man shot down a camera-equipped drone that he said was flying over his house and the homes of neighbors – including a home where teenage girls were sunbathing. William Merideth was arrested and charged with first-degree criminal mischief and first-degree wanton endangerment.

In April, an Ohio man was charged with a felony – obstructing official business – and a misdemeanor charge of misconduct at an emergency after he allegedly refused to land his camera-equipped drone when a medical helicopter was called to the scene of an accident the drone operator was filming. Kele Stanley, the drone operator, told the Columbus Dispatch in April that he did not disobey law enforcement and that he would have landed the drone if he had been told a helicopter was coming to the scene.

 

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