OLR Bill Analysis

sSB 148

AN ACT PROHIBITING THE WEAPONIZATION OF DRONES BASED ON A PROGRAM REVIEW AND INVESTIGATIONS COMMITTEE STUDY.

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, except that certain law enforcement officers may do so in limited circumstances (bomb squad exemption).

The bill prohibits municipalities, except as state or federal law provides, from enacting any ordinance that regulates, restricts, prohibits, licenses, or affects the ownership, possession, operation, purchase, or sale of drones.

EFFECTIVE DATE: Upon passage for the provision barring municipal regulation of drones; August 1, 2016 for the remaining provisions.

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 outside the contrivance.

The bill 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 or a deadly weapon, explosive, or 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 prohibits law enforcement officers from using weaponized drones except that they may 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) special police officers appointed by the Department of Emergency Services and Public Protection (DESPP) for state property and (2) officers, employees, or agents of the State Police, municipal police departments, and special campus police forces.

BACKGROUND

Deadly Weapon and Deadly Weapon Offender Registry

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 (i.e., a loaded or unloaded weapon from which a shot may be discharged, or a switchblade knife, gravity knife, billy, blackjack, bludgeon, or metal knuckles).

A person must register if he or she violated (1) 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.

Related Bill

sHB 5274 (File 337), contains the same provisions as this bill and also (1) makes it a class B felony to use a drone to pass firearms or explosives to inmates of a correctional or humane institution; (2) allows state agency officers, employees, and agents to use drones in the course of their employment and requires agencies to report on their use annually to the Office of Policy and Management; and (3) specifies that, for purposes of voyeurism crimes, a victim is “not in plain view” when the view is not otherwise obtainable and is made possible by using a (a) drone or (b) technology having electrical, digital, magnetic, wireless, optical, electromagnetic, or similar capabilities.

COMMITTEE ACTION

Program Review and Investigations Committee

Joint Favorable Substitute Change of Reference

Yea

10

Nay

0

(03/07/2016)

Judiciary Committee

Joint Favorable Substitute

Yea

45

Nay

0

(03/30/2016)