Warrant requirement for drone usage now law: ACLU of Virginia celebrates key victory

acluThe American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Virginia commended Governor McAuliffe for signing into law bipartisan privacy legislation, HB 2125 (Cline R Rockbridge) and SB 1301 (McEachin D Richmond), that will require a search warrant for drone use by law or regulatory enforcement agencies. Since 2013, law enforcement drone use has been regulated by Virginia’s first-in-the-nation drone moratorium that is set to expire July 2015. The new law adds Virginia to the list of only eleven states with a warrant requirement for drone usage by law enforcement.
“This hard won victory comes after three years of close work with a bipartisan group of legislators led by Delegates Ben Cline and Todd Gilbert,” said ACLU of Virginia Executive Director Claire Guthrie Gastañaga. “The first success came two years ago when Governor McDonnell signed the first in the nation, two-year drone statewide moratorium that gave us time to work together to develop the common sense legislation that Governor McAuliffe signed today.”
Last month, the legislature rejected amendments proposed by the Governor that would have gutted the statutory warrant requirements in these bills regulating drone use by law and regulatory enforcement agencies.
Under the new law, law enforcement can use a drone to track a person as long as they obtain a warrant. The law also allows exceptions for emergencies, allowing drones to be deployed without a warrant in cases such as when an Amber or Blue alert are issued and does not limit commercial or other uses of drones for non-law enforcement purposes. Virginia is now one of eleven other states with similar laws including, Florida, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Montana, Oregon, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, and Wisconsin.

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