Utah bill on drone cameras causing controversy

SALT LAKE CITY (ABC 4 Utah) - A bill cracking down on aerial drone cameras in Utah is sparking some controversy. So far the bill is getting a lot of support from state lawmakers, but some police don't like it.
SALT LAKE CITY (ABC 4 Utah) - A bill cracking down on aerial drone cameras in Utah is sparking some controversy. So far the bill is getting a lot of support from state lawmakers, but some police don't like it.

An aerial drone bill has received unanimous support from the Utah Senate. The bill limits when police or anybody for that matter could use a drone to look at or take pictures of people. That's a concern for Unified Police.

There's a lot of buzz about the aerial drone bill that’s flying through the Utah Legislature.

"This bill ensures drones will not be used against Utah citizens without due process," said Howard Stephenson, (R) District 11.

State Senator Howard Stephenson is sponsoring SB 167. It cracks down on police using drone cameras to invade people's privacy.

"A law enforcement agency may not obtain, receive, or use data acquired through an unmanned aerial vehicle unless the data is obtained pursuant to a search warrant in accordance with judicially recognized exceptions to warrant requirements."

In layman's terms –

"It requires that in order for law enforcement to use drones to survey citizens they would have to get a court order to do so,” said Stephenson.

"This to me is a bill that throws the baby out with the bath water," said Jim Winder, Salt Lake County Sheriff.

Reporter Brian Carlson discussed the bill with Salt Lake County Sheriff Jim Winder. He said the bill goes too far.

"I'm concerned we won't be able to use them for crime scene investigations, for search and recovery... for a variety of applications that I think are very legitimate," said Winder.

He hopes before the bill goes any further that lawmakers will have serious discussions when it goes to committee.

"I would urge the legislature to allow for some other conversation to take place perhaps in an interim," said Winder.

Senator Stephenson said he's not against police using drones. He simply wants to make some rules on this emerging technology.

"The important thing though is we set boundaries on how law enforcement uses them in relationship to private citizens," Stephenson said.

ABC 4 Utah also reached out to the Utah Highway Patrol to get its take on the bill. A spokesperson said they're trying to figure out the balance of using drone cameras without being too invasive.

The bill next moves to the Utah House. Senator Stephenson said it could be up for a vote on Monday or Tuesday. The legislative session ends on Thursday.

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Follow Brian Carlson on Twitter: @briancarlsontv

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