Kentucky Bill Would Place Limits on Drones, Thwart Federal Surveillance Program

FRANKFORT, Ky. (Oct. 16, 2015) – A Kentucky legislator has prefiled a bill that would restrict the use of drones by state and local law enforcement. The bill not only establishes important privacy protections at the state level, it would also thwart the federal surveillance state.

Rep. Diane St. Onge prefiled HB22 in August. The bill would prohibit law enforcement agencies from utilizing drones to gather evidence or other information without a warrant in most cases. The legislation also includes a blanket prohibition on the use of weaponized drones by state or local law enforcement.

Under the proposed law, police could use drones without a warrant but only if “no part of any information and no evidence derived from the operation is used by the Commonwealth in any trial, hearing, or other proceeding in or before any court, grand jury, or for any intelligence purpose.” This would include activities such as surveying a crash scene, or searching for a missing person.

The legislation also stipulates that if law enforcement agencies legally use drones, they can only collect data on the target named in the warrant, and must take steps to minimize incidental data collection on individuals, homes or areas other than the target. The bill also prohibits agencies from disclosing any collected data except by court order.

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

Impact on the Federal Surveillance State

Although the law focuses 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 (archived link), 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.


Help stop drone spying in your state at THIS LINK.

About Tenth Amendment Center
The Tenth Amendment Center is a national think tank that works to preserve and protect the principles of strictly limited government through information, education, and activism. The center serves as a forum for the study and exploration of state and individual sovereignty issues, focusing primarily on the decentralization of federal government power as required by the Constitution. For more information visit the Tenth Amendment Center Blog.

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