Pre-emptive strike: Fla. governor signs law banning drone surveillance

Florida Gov. Rick Scott on Thursday signed a bill banning police forces from using automated eyes in the skies to gather evidence without a judge’s OK.

State Rep. Ritch Workman, R-Melbourne, who sponsored the bill, called it a pre-emptive step toward preventing a “nightmare scenario” of constant police surveillance monitoring the activities of innocent Floridians.

“That’s not the police state we want to live in,” Workman said.

With Scott’s signature, Florida is among the first states – along with GOP-led Virginia and Idaho — to crack down on the cheap form of warrantless monitoring.

Workman said the effort in the Sunshine State has drawn national attention, with news outlets from the leftist Huffington Post to the Wall Street Journal contacting him about the bill.

“I didn’t realize this was going to take such a national headline,” he said.

The law is titled the “Freedom from Unwarranted Surveillance Act.” It prohibits police forces from using unmanned aircraft to gather evidence or other information without a judge’s warrant, with exceptions for risk of terrorism as determined by the Department of Homeland Security, when there is imminent risk of loss of life or property, or in missing-person cases.

In Florida, only the Miami-Dade police department has drones, but Workman said the law is intended to avoid future confusion over how governments – local and state – are allowed to watch over citizens. Given how inexpensive and widely available drone technology has become, he said, pre-emptive action was necessary.

“This could quickly become a problem,” he said.

The bill was sponsored in the Senate by Sen. Joe Negron, R-Palm City, who attended Thursday’s signing ceremony.



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