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Attorney General Mills Presents Amendment to Drone Legislation
April 12, 2013
AUGUSTA – Attorney General Janet T. Mills presented an amendment to the so-called “Drones” bill that would preempt any inappropriate use of unmanned aerial vehicles by law enforcement officials and regulate their use for investigative purposes. The amendment was presented by the Attorney General at Thursday’s work session on LD 236, An Act to Protect the Privacy of Citizens from Domestic Unmanned Aerial Vehicle Use, sponsored by Senator John Patrick.
Attorney General Mills’ amendment specifically prohibits the use of drones at labor actions, peaceful picketing or other peaceful exercise of First Amendment rights by private citizens. It encourages manufacturing and testing by private entrepreneurs and it permits legitimate law enforcement uses for search and rescue, traffic accident photography, forest fire assessment, and the like, while directing that specific guidelines be developed for use in criminal investigations.
“Technology is evolving by the moment,” said Attorney General Mills. “Drones present many novel legal issues, but they also present an opportunity for any number of beneficial and lifesaving uses. The challenge is to address this new technology in a thoughtful , deliberative manner – not to create a process so burdensome that no police officer, forest ranger, Marine Patrol Officer or game warden would ever be able to deploy one as a practical matter, even to save a life. The Board of Trustees of the Maine Criminal Justice Academy, which includes five public members, has experience dealing these kinds of novel and controversial issues. In recent years the Board has successfully created model policies regarding racial profiling, high speed pursuit, response to domestic violence, use of deadly force and other police standards and these have all been well received."
The Mills Amendment would also impose a moratorium for non-emergency, criminal investigatory use by law enforcement agencies through July 1, 2014, while the Academy Board develops minimum standards for the use of drones, with a report back to the Legislature by December 31, 2013. Except for obvious emergencies, no law enforcement agency may operate a drone before adopting the minimum standards.
The Mills amendment proposes legislative findings that:
“…Evolving technology regarding unmanned aerial vehicles “drones” presents a potential economic driver for the State of Maine; an opportunity for research and development; a very real benefit for security, search and rescue efforts and for disaster prevention and relief; a tool for the investigation of serious crimes, as well as a potential threat to the privacy of Maine citizens if widely used by law enforcement in the conduct of criminal investigations without appropriate guidelines and supervision.”
The Mills amendment is the result of many hours of meetings with the Maine State Police, the Fire Marshal, the Warden Service, the MCJA Director, other law enforcement agencies, private entrepreneurs, and the ACLU-Maine.
The Judiciary Committee tabled LD 236 for two weeks to review amendments.
Amendment would prohibit surveillance of peaceful picketing, encourage manufacturing and testing and allow legitimate law enforcement uses with strict guidelines