Virginia AG Speaks Out on UAS Operations by Law Enforcement

Posted by Betsy Lillian on October 16, 2014 No Comments
Categories : Policy & Regulations

Virginia Attorney General Mark R. Herring has given his stance on the use of unmanned aerial systems (UAS) by law enforcement for search warrants in the state. The verdict? It's a no-go.

In an Oct. 9 letter to Ronald K. Elkins – the commonwealth's attorney for Wise County and the City of Norton – Herring stated that under Chapter 755 of the 2013 Acts of Assembly (H.B.2012), UAS operations by “state or local law enforcement for the purpose of gathering evidence pursuant to a search warrant” are prohibited, except for “specified humanitarian purposes” (e.g., searching for missing persons).

Elkins had asked Herring for an “official advisory opinion, in accordance with §2.2-205 of the Code of Virginia,” of whether or not the Wise County Sheriff’s Office would be violating regulations if it used its UAS to collect evidence for a crime, according to Herring’s letter.

Chapter 755, which was approved April 3, 2013, states the following:

“No state or local government department, agency, or instrumentality having jurisdiction over criminal law enforcement or regulatory violations, including but not limited to the Department of State Police, and no department of law enforcement as defined in §15.2-836 of the Code of Virginia of any county, city or town shall utilize an unmanned aircraft system before July 1, 2015.” It then lists exceptions to the rule (i.e., the “specified humanitarian purposes”).

Herring makes it clear in his letter that this is only a temporary restriction that will be in place until July 1 of next year, as stated in Chapter 755.

The full letter from the attorney general can be found here.

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