OLR Bill Analysis

sHB 5274 (as amended by House "A")*

AN ACT CONCERNING THE USE OF DRONES.

SUMMARY:

This bill makes it a class C felony, punishable by imprisonment for up to 10 years, a fine of up to $10,000, or both, to operate unmanned aerial vehicles (commonly called drones) that are weaponized, unless otherwise authorized by law. It authorizes certain law enforcement officers to operate weaponized drones in limited circumstances (e.g., during bomb squad operations), and it restricts when they may use non-weaponized drones.

The bill makes it a class E felony, punishable by imprisonment for up to three years, a fine of up to $3,500, or both for anyone to knowingly cause a drone to land or take off from a correctional facility's grounds.

The bill specifies that, for purposes of voyeurism crimes (see BACKGROUND), a victim is “not in plain view” when the view is not otherwise obtainable and it is made possible by operating a drone.

By January 1, 2018, the bill requires the Department of Emergency Services and Public Protection (DESPP), Police Officer Standards and Training Council (POST), and chief state's attorney to submit a report to the Public Safety and Security Committee with recommendations for administrative policies and legislation necessary to establish requirements for the retention, modification, or destruction of information collected by law enforcement use of drones as allowed by the bill.

*House Amendment “A” eliminates the original bill's (File 337) provisions (1) imposing retention and destruction information on law enforcement and instead requires a study of such requirements, (2) prohibiting municipalities from enacting ordinances that regulate drones, (3) requiring law enforcement agencies to post certain drone information online, (4) allowing state agencies to authorize drone use, and (5) requiring POST to develop a model policy. It also (1) decreases the penalty for the correction facilities provision and punishes landing and taking off rather than passing items, (2) alters circumstances when law enforcement may use drones, (3) extends restrictions on drone use to Capitol Police and special police and the weaponized provision to the Capitol Police, (4) eliminates provisions on using other technology for voyeurism or weaponized drones, and (5) makes other minor changes.

EFFECTIVE DATE: Upon passage for the report; August 1, 2016 for the weaponized drone provisions; October 1, 2016 for the voyeurism and correctional facilities provisions; and July 1, 2018 for the restrictions on law enforcement use of non-weaponized drones.

1 & 2 — WEAPONIZED DRONES

The bill defines an “unmanned aerial vehicle” as any power-driven contrivance used or designed for navigation or flight and operated remotely from the outside (“drones”).

It creates a new crime, making it a class C felony, unless otherwise provided by law, to operate a drone equipped with tear gas or a similar deleterious agent, a deadly weapon, explosives, or an incendiary device. (Drones so equipped are commonly described as weaponized or armed.) People convicted of this crime must register with the deadly weapon offender registry (see BACKGROUND). Failure to register is a class D felony punishable by imprisonment for up to five years, a fine of up to $5,000, or both.

The bill allows designated law enforcement officers to use drones equipped with explosive detection, detonation, or disposal equipment when authorized by the state or federal government and engaged in detecting, detonating, or disposing of explosives. This provision applies to (1) DESPP-appointed special police officers for state property and (2) officers, employees, or agents of the State Police; municipal police departments; special campus police forces; and State Capitol Police.

3 — VOYEURISM

By law, a person commits voyeurism if, under certain circumstances, he or she, with malice or intent to satisfy his or her sexual desire, knowingly photographs, films, videotapes, or otherwise records a person without his or her consent and while he or she is not in plain view (see BACKGROUND). The bill specifies that a victim, under this law, is “not in plain view” when the view is not otherwise obtainable and is made possible by using a drone.

4 — CORRECTIONAL FACILITIES

Under existing law, it is a class D felony for anyone not authorized by law to pass certain prohibited items, including firearms, weapons, dangerous instruments, or explosives in a correctional or humane institution to an inmate he or she knows, whether the inmate is inside or outside the premises.

The bill makes it a class E felony for anyone to knowingly cause a drone to land or take off from the grounds of a correctional facility, except when otherwise provided by law.

5 — DRONE USE BY LAW ENFORCEMENT OFFICERS

The bill restricts when law enforcement officers may operate drones. This provision applies to (1) DESPP-appointed special police officers for state property and (2) officers, employees, or agents of the State Police; municipal police departments; special campus police forces; and State Capitol Police.

They may do so only under the following circumstances:

1. a Superior Court judge or judge trial referee (judge over age 70 who serves with limited powers) issues a warrant authorizing its use;

2. the person who, or the owner of property that, will be the subject of the information collected by the drone has given prior written consent (the subject being the person or property that can be identified in information collected or that the officer acknowledges as the subject);

3. the law enforcement officer has probable cause to believe that a crime was, is being, or will be committed and exigent circumstances make it unreasonable to obtain a warrant (case law recognizes an exception to the usual requirement to obtain a warrant to conduct a search when exigent circumstances exist, such as an emergency with an imminent threat to someone's life);

4. the operation is for training activities conducted by the agency on land owned or leased by the state or federal government and does not occur over an area that is substantially populated; or

5. the operation is for reconstructing or documenting a specific crime or accident scene.

BACKGROUND

Deadly Weapon and Deadly Weapon Offender Registry

By law, a “deadly weapon” is a weapon, whether loaded or unloaded, from which a shot may be discharged, or a switchblade knife, gravity knife, billy, blackjack, bludgeon, or metal knuckles.

By law, DESPP maintains a registry of people convicted, or found not guilty by reason of mental disease or defect, of an offense committed with a deadly weapon. A person must register if he or she (1) violated specified statutes or (2) committed any felony and the court finds that, at the time of the offense, the offender used a deadly weapon or was armed with and threatened to use, displayed, or represented by words or conduct that he or she possessed, a deadly weapon. Offenders must register for five years. The registry information is not a public record and is disclosable only to certain law enforcement and other agencies.

Voyeurism

By law, a person commits the crime of voyeurism when (1) he or she knowingly photographs, films, videotapes, or records the victim's image; (2) he or she acts maliciously or intends to satisfy his or her or another's sexual desire; and (3) the victim is not in plain view, has a reasonable expectation of privacy under the circumstances, and does not know of, or consent to, the conduct.

PA 15-213 expanded the crime of voyeurism in two ways. First, it punishes someone who with intent to arouse or satisfy his or her sexual desire:

1. commits simple trespass (entering property knowing he or she is not entitled to do so without intent to harm property);

2. observes another person who is inside a dwelling and not in plain view under circumstances where there is a reasonable expectation of privacy; and

3. does not have the other person's knowledge or consent and the observation is not casual or cursory.

Second, it punishes someone who intending to arouse or satisfy his or her or someone else's sexual desire:

1. knowingly photographs films, videotapes, or otherwise records the victim's genitals, pubic area, buttocks, or undergarments or stockings used to clothe them, when they are not in plain view; and

2. records such an image without the victim's knowledge and consent.

By law, voyeurism is either a class D felony or a class C felony depending on the circumstances. A first offense is a class D felony but it a class C felony if the (1) victim is under age 16 or (2) offender has a prior conviction of certain sexual crimes. Any subsequent voyeurism conviction is a class C felony. Additionally, people convicted of the type of voyeurism that involve satisfying a person's sexual desire must, in certain circumstances, register as sex offenders for 10 years or life, depending on his or her prior convictions. Failure to register is a class D felony.

COMMITTEE ACTION

Public Safety and Security Committee

Joint Favorable Substitute

Yea

19

Nay

6

(03/15/2016)

Judiciary Committee

Joint Favorable

Yea

39

Nay

1

(04/11/2016)

Planning and Development Committee

Joint Favorable

Yea

14

Nay

0

(04/22/2016)