CHEYENNE – There has been a lot of news around the nation about drones and the use of drones including several cases this summer in Yellowstone Park. The Wyoming Legislature will debate a bill which would limit the use of drones by law enforcement agencies.
House Bill 18 or the Drone Protection Act is sponsored by the Joint Judiciary Interim Committee. If approved, the new bill will specify requirements for use of drones by law enforcement agencies and will limit the use of information obtained with a drone by governmental entities.
Under the Drone Protection Act, law enforcement agencies would not be allowed to use a drone or acquire or disclose information obtained or derived through the use of a drone unless law enforcement agencies follow a protocol spelled out in the proposed bill.
Law enforcement would have to obtain a warrant authorizing the use of a drone. Warrants authorizing the use of a drone shall specify the period and geographical location for which use of the drone is authorized. The authorization period shall not exceed 30 days but may be extended if a good cause is given.
There are some exceptions in the bill which would allow law enforcement to use drones without obtaining a warrant. The first is that the use of a drone would likely assist in the prevention of a felony. The next exception is if the agency determines there is an imminent threat to the life or safety of a person.
Other exemptions include the use of drones for search and rescue operations, during a state of emergency to preserve public safety, protect property or assess damage, for crime scene or accident reconstruction or assessment of specific crime scenes and for training purposes.
The bill also dictates what information acquired or derived through the use of a drone can be used. The bill states no information acquired or derived through the use of a drone by a governmental entity shall be admissible in any judicial or administrative proceeding unless the governmental entity collected the information in a manner permitted by a law enforcement agency.
The bill also would require all information acquired or derived through the use of a drone by a law enforcement agency in compliance shall be destroyed by the law enforcement agency within 90 days of acquiring the information. The only way they can keep information longer than 90 days is there is a reasonable suspicion the information contains evidence of criminal activity or the information is relevant to an ongoing investigation or pending criminal trial.
The proposed bill also spells out how law enforcement is to report on the use of drones. A government entity that uses a drone will have to immediately document the factual basis for using the drone and will have to report to the attorney general no later than Aug. 1 of each year.
The report needs to include the number of times the agency used a drone during the preceding year, the factual basis showing the need for each use, the cost of using the drone and the type of data collected including whether data was collected about individuals, residences, businesses and property.
If approved, the bill would require the attorney general to report the information reviewed to the Wyoming Joint Judiciary Interim Committee no later than Oct. 1 of each year.
If approved by the Wyoming House and Senate and signed by the Governor, the bill would go into effect June 30, 2015.
Upcoming Meet and Greet
There is a Legislative Meet-and-Greet scheduled at the Homewood Suites located at 60 Winston Drive in Rock Springs on January 6th from 6 p.m. until 8 p.m. This informal meet-and-greet is a wonderful opportunity for open communication with those that serve the Sweetwater County.
The 63rd Wyoming Legislature will convene January 13 at noon for the 2015 General Session.The Joint Session of the Wyoming Legislature will take place January 14 at 10 a.m. with the Governor’s State of the State address.