Public Safety and Security Committee
JOINT FAVORABLE REPORT
AN ACT CONCERNING THE USE OF DRONES.
Joint Favorable Substitute
SPONSORS OF BILL:
Public Safety & Security Committee
REASONS FOR BILL:
The Department of Corrections, the Office of the Chief State's Attorney, the ACLU and the Public Defender's Office approached the committee in regards to the need for legislation pertaining to drones as they are a relatively new concept and such legislation never existed previously. There have been incidents in other states of weapons and contraband being dropped into prison yards via drones, as well as two incident sin CT where a young man has attached a gun and a flame thrower (in separate incidents involving the same man) to a drone and posted the videos to YouTube.
The substitute language drafted to vote the bill out of committee makes several changes to the original bill language:
● Exempts drones from statutes governing aircraft and compliance with the Uniform Aircraft Responsibility Act.
● Restricts when DESPP and municipal police may use a drone
● Imposes retention and destruction requirements for information collected by law enforcement through use of a drone
● Requires agencies to register their drones with OPM and requires the agencies report their usage annually to OPM
● The bill creates a new crime, making it a class C felony to attach a weapon to a drone. A class C felony is punishable by up to 10 years in prison, a $10,000 fine or both.
● The bill would also require persons convicted of this crime to register with the deadly weapon offender registry.
RESPONSE FROM ADMINISTRATION/AGENCY:
Tejas Bhatt from the Office of the Chief Public Defender testified the office “generally supports the bill” believing that the bill addresses the fourth amendment concerns expressed by the office. The office suggests that if law enforcement were in possession of information sufficient enough to find probable cause, they would then be directed to obtain a warrant. The second suggestion made by the office was to clarify the retention of the data and time frames associated with that storage. With those changes the office supports the bill.
Representative Mary Mushinsky testified in support of the bill as the ranking member of the PRI committee Rep. Mushinsky was privy to the research done by that committee. Rep. Mushinksy noted that drone usage continues to take off but state statutes are not keeping pace, and due to the low cost of a drone many hobbyists are purchasing them. Issues of safety & privacy are resulting as usage grows.
Kevin Dillon, Executive Director of the Connecticut Airport Authority testified in support of the bill noting that it would like to see the following changes: consider a shorter 1 or 2 year moratorium on aircraft registration requirements to allow time to assess the impacts of federal regulations and help ensure safe flight in CT.
NATURE AND SOURCES OF SUPPORT:
David McGuire of the ACLU-CT testified that the ACLU Strongly supports the bills requirement that the police obtain a warrant based upon probable cause before flying a surveillance drone, as this would be in accordance with the fourth amendment. The ACLU also supported the bill's ban on the public weaponizing a drone, however the ACLU finds troubling that the bill as written does not prevent police from weaponizing drones. The ACLU strongly suggests that the bill be amended to include the law enforcement weaponization ban from the 2015 bill. The ACLU also found issue with the time law enforcement has to store footage obtained from a drone, currently the bill allows 90 days. The ACLU recommends that the period of time allowed to review drone footage be shortened from 90 days to 30 days.
Sgt. Jeremiah Dunn of the Clinton Police Department submitted written testimony referring to an incident in his town in which a resident of the town had constructed a drone equipped with a working handgun capable of firing a handgun remotely. This incident was recorded and posted on the internet and quickly went viral. After investigation by the State Police Firearms Unit, the Middlesex County State Attorney, the ATF and FAA, it was determined that this act was not illegal. Dunn went on to explain that while being a staunch supporter of the 2nd amendment, he thinks the obvious dangers associated with this type of behavior are too great to list.
Peter Sachs, Esq. author of the Drone Law Journal submitted his suggestions to the committee, which included: banning law enforcement use of weaponized drones, prohibiting municipalities from enacting ordinances or regulations on this issue and making the bill effective July 1 instead of October 1.
NATURE AND SOURCES OF OPPOSITION:
Reported by: Jamie Hobart