Law Limits Police Drone Operations in Utah


248_police_drones_4.11.2014 Law Limits Police Drone Operations in UtahA bill signed into law by Gov. Gary Herbert, R-Utah, places limits on the use of unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) by state law enforcement agencies.

According to S.B.167, a warrant is needed in order for law enforcement agencies to gather data through the operation of a UAV, except under certain judicially recognized circumstances. Police may use drone data acquired by non-government actors if that information pertains to a crime or emergency.

In addition, law enforcement agencies must destroy any data collected by a UAV as soon as reasonably possible. Exceptions are made for specific court orders, ongoing investigations and emergencies.

Law enforcement agencies must also submit an annual report detailing UAV operations to the Utah Department of Public Safety and post that report on their websites. Police are required to disclose the number of drone operations and criminal investigations aided by such operations in the previous calendar year.

Furthermore, the agencies must delineate how drones assisted each investigation and what type of data had been collected, as well as the cost of UAV operations. Police can exclude information relating to ongoing investigations from the annual report but must submit that excluded data to the Utah Department of Public Safety.

The chief sponsor of the bill was state Sen. Howard A. Stephenson, R-Draper.

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