Governor Vetoes California Drone Bills

Posted by Michael Bates
on October 5, 2015 No Comments

This past weekend, Gov. Jerry Brown, D-Calif., vetoed a trio of bills that aimed to rein in the use of unmanned aerial systems in certain situations.

The three Senate bills – S.B.168, S.B.170 and S.B.271 – had been introduced by Sen. Ted Gaines, R-Roseville, in February and moved through the legislative channels this spring and summer.

“Each of these bills creates a new crime – usually by finding a novel way to characterize and criminalize conduct that is already proscribed,” the governor wrote in his veto message to the State Senate. “This multiplication and particularization of criminal behavior creates increasing complexity without commensurate benefit.”

S.B.170 and S.B.271, both of which passed unanimously in the State Senate and Assembly, were presented as measures that would have protected Californians’ privacy and safety. S.B.170 would have made it a misdemeanor to fly a drone over a California state prison or county jail, while S.B.271 would have criminalized flying drones over public K-12 schools during school hours, as well as made it illegal to take aerial photos of a school campus during school hours or extracurricular activities.

“Privacy issues, especially in today’s fast-paced Internet and technology era, are among the most important policy issues facing Californians,” Gaines said last month. “We must protect the public’s right to privacy and more importantly, their safety, from inappropriate drone use.”

S.B.168 dealt with the use of drones in the context of emergency situations, such as firefighting. The issue had come to prominence over the past year, as hobbyists increasingly took their drones to flight in order to capture images and video of California wildfires, sometimes hindering emergency workers’ efforts.

“To think that someone would interfere with firefighting or emergency response situations to get a sneak peek or to post a drone video on YouTube is an outrage that is deserving of punishment and condemnation,” Gaines remarked in August.

The bill would have increased the fines associated with drone use that interfered with firefighting and emergency responders, as well as sought civil immunity for any responder who damaged a drone during his or her work.

Just last month, the governor vetoed S.B.142, a bill that would have kept drones away from private property in California.


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