UPDATE: THE BILL WIL RECEIVE A COMMITTEE HEARING THIS THURSDAY, THE 21ST AT 10 A.M. AT THE STATE CAPITOL.
"This bill quite simply provides protection to the citizens of Washington state from warrantless surveillance. That's our intent here. To start a conversation and say if these things are going to be used, you will protect the constitutional rights of the citizens," said Rep. David Taylor.
The bill adds that any government group within Washington must get permission and be approved before even acquiring a drone. Sec. 4 reads:
(1) No state agency or organization having jurisdiction over criminal law enforcement or regulatory violations including, but not limited to, the Washington state patrol, shall procure a public unmanned aircraft system without the approval of the legislature.
(2) No department of law enforcement of any city, county, or town or any local agency having jurisdiction over criminal law enforcement or regulatory violations shall procure a public unmanned aircraft system without the approval of the governing body of such locality.
Despite many citizens being against drones, the technology is here. The bill attempts to limit drone use as much as possible to protect the rights of Washington residents under the 4th Amendment as well as Article I, section 7 of the Washington State Constitution that reads "No person shall be disturbed in his private affairs, or his home invaded, without authority of law."
"The entire drone issue is not going to be solved with just this one bill, but this will get the law enforcement side under control because there are no clear guidelines out there right now for the use of these drones and we could put the state on the hook with liability if these drones are used in an improper manner," said Rep. Matt Shea (R), one of the bill’s sponsors.
Rep. Jason Overstreet (R), another sponsor of the bill agreed with the other representatives that "drones are the equivalent of King George the III's General Warrants. We must get their use by public agencies and law enforcement under control now to protect the people of Washington from warrantless searches and seizure. Just imagine what state environmental agencies could do with drones .... Tyranny."
The bill will likely pick up Democrat sponsors who are reportedly voicing their support as well. The bill also includes strict guidelines to protect residents who may be filmed by drones accidentally. Sec. 11 reads:
No personal information collected on an individual or area other than the target that justified the issuance of a search warrant may be used, copied, or disclosed for any purpose. Such personal information shall be deleted as soon as possible, and in no event later than twenty-four hours after collection.
The bill also requires any group using a drone to conduct annual comprehensive audits on all drone operations which will include the law enforcement log book, corresponding emergency telephone calls, warrants and other documentation of the justification for use and data collected. The audits will have to be made available to the public.
You can read the full bill here.