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Michigan Bill Would Place Limits on Drones, Hinder Federal Surveillance Program

michigan

LANSING, Mich. (Nov. 23, 2015) – A bill under consideration in the Michigan House would restrict the use of drones by state and local law enforcement. The legislation would not only establish important privacy protections at the state level, it would also help thwart the federal surveillance state.

Rep. Jim Runestad introduced House Bill 5026 (HB5026) On Oct. 27. The bill would prohibit police form gathering information with a drone without a warrant with only a few exceptions.

The language of the proposed bill stipulates that “a law enforcement agency of this state or a political subdivision of this state shall not disclose or receive information acquired through the operation of an unmanned aerial vehicle,” without either a warrant, written consent of the person under surveillance or under a court order issued by a judge on the basis of reasonable suspicion of criminal activity under certain specific parameters. The proposed law would also allow collection of information by a drone if it “is used in circumstances in which it is reasonable to believe that there is an imminent threat to the life or safety of a person, for the purpose of assisting the person,” under several conditions.

HB 5026 includes a complete ban on the use of drones armed with lethal or non-lethal weapons.

Any information collected in violation of the law would be inadmissible in court.

The legislation also includes specific criteria judges must follow when issuing a warrant, and criminal penalties for violations of the law.

Impact on the Federal Surveillance State

Although the proposed bills focus exclusively on state and local drone use and does not apply directly to federal agencies, it throws a high hurdle in front of some federal programs.

Much of the funding for drones at the state and local level comes from the federal government, in and of itself a constitutional violation. In return, federal agencies tap into the information gathered by state and local law enforcement through fusion centers and a federal program known as the information sharing environment.

According to its website, the ISE “provides analysts, operators, and investigators with information needed to enhance national security. These analysts, operators, and investigators… have mission needs to collaborate and share information with each other and with private sector partners and our foreign allies.” In other words, ISE serves as a conduit for the sharing of information gathered without a warrant.

The federal government encourages and funds a network of drones at the state and local level across the U.S., thereby gaining access to a massive data pool on Americans without having to expend the resources to collect the information itself. By placing restrictions on drone use, state and local governments limit the data available that the feds can access.

In a nutshell, without state and local cooperation, the feds have a much more difficult time gathering information. This represents a major blow to the surveillance state and a win for privacy.

NEXT STEPS

HB5026 was referred to Committee on Government Operations where it will need to pass by a majority vote before moving on to the full House for consideration.

TAKE ACTION

If you live in Michigan: contact members of the Committee on Government Operations and politely but firmly ask them to support HB5026. A phone call will be more effective than an email.

Committee Members

Bradford Jacobsen (R) Committee Chair: 517-373-1798

Michael Webber (R) Majority Vice-Chair: 517-373-1773

Andrea LaFontaine (R): 517-373-8931

Tim Greimel (D) Minority Vice-Chair: (517) 373-0475

Sam Singh (D): (517) 373-1786

In other states: Help stop drone spying in your state at THIS LINK.