By Ali Papademetriou
When it comes to working on limiting unwarranted unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) or drone surveillance, Tennessee has been ceaseless.
In April, Tennessee Senator Paul Sanford’s bill to limit law enforcement agencies’ use of drones, SB 582, was passed through a Senate committee. The bill would block using drones except for “counter[ing] a high risk of a terrorist attack by a specific individual or organization,” or if it was needed to avoid “imminent danger” such as finding a missing person.
“If they are going to use a drone, they need to get a warrant,” explained Senator Sanford during the committee meeting when members passed the measure.
Now, another similar legislation, this one known as the “Freedom from Unwarranted Surveillance Act”, is not only making its way through the Tennessee legislature, but it’s successfully become law.
State residents and liberty advocates were thrilled to discover on Monday that the Tennessee House and Senate as well as Governor Haslam are in favor of protecting the Fourth Amendment.
The bill unanimously swept through the legislature, flying through the Senate with a 31 to 0 vote, through the House with a 91 to 0 vote, and was signed by the governor on May 20, 2013.
“Notwithstanding any law to the contrary, no law enforcement agency shall use a drone to gather evidence or other information,” reads the bill. It is specified that law enforcement may only use drones to “counter a high risk of a terrorist attack by a specific individual or organization if the United States secretary of homeland security determines that credible intelligence indicates that there is such a risk.”
In addition, “If the law enforcement agency first obtains a search warrant signed by a judge authorizing the use of a drone, or if the law enforcement agency possesses reasonable suspicion that, under particular circumstances, swift action is needed to protect imminent danger to life,” drone surveillance would be okay.