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While conceding that privacy rights are critical, the bill’s
opponents say it would unnecessarily limit law enforcement.
“That’s technology that I don’t think should be absolutely banned,” said Larry Epstein, a lobbyist for the Montana Police Protective Association, the Montana County Attorneys Association, and the Montana Association of Police Chiefs, three powerful interest groups ardently opposed to Driscoll’s bill.
Epstein said he worries that a provision the allowing victims of drone misuse to sue offenders personally and professionally is overly broad.
His solution, he said, is the Montana Constitution, which boasts strong language protecting privacy rights and already limits police overreach.
Missoula Police Chief Mark Muir, also the head of the Montana Association of Police Chiefs, said Montana legislators are acting too swiftly on drones.
“At this point, it’s sort of putting the cart before the horse,” Muir warned, pointing out that no local law enforcement agencies in Montana own or deploy drones.
Muir, too, recognizes the concerns shown by privacy advocates.
“We understand the privacy issue at play with this technology and we are open to discussion on how it might be used,” he said.
Driscoll’s bill likely edges out others as the most forceful of the anti-drone legislation hitting state legislatures this year. Others, like Florida Republican State Sen. Joe Negron’s proposal, reveal similar values, but boast more exemptions.
Negron’s bill, initially approval by the Florida Senate Criminal Justice Committee last week, would prevent law enforcement agencies from using drones to collect evidence without first obtaining a warrant from a judge. Law enforcement agencies also could use drones to counter imminent terrorist attacks or prevent harm from coming to life or property under “particular circumstance.”
“Drones are fine to kill terrorists in Afghanistan and Pakistan, but they shouldn’t be hovering in the sky, monitoring Floridians,” Negron said, according to Florida’s WUFT. “That’s not something we believe is an appropriate role for government.”
Negron did not return a call for comment.
United in Opposition—Sort Of
“We believe we need a system of rules so people can use drone for legitimate purposes,” said Allie Bohm, a policy strategist in the ACLU New York office.
ACLU representatives have spoken in favor of anti-drone legislation in Montana, Florida, and Missouri, urging state lawmakers to stay one step ahead of a potentially dangerous industry.
Bohm said there’s no coordinated game plan on the ACLU’s part to push anti-drone bills, but the organization stands at the ready to aid anyone’s effort to push the legislation.