by Mike Maharrey, The Tenth Amendment Center, ©2015

(May 15, 2015) —  TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (May 15, 2015) – Florida Gov. Rick Scott signed signed a bill into law yesterday that takes a second step against mass surveillance, expanding current limitations on the use of drones in the Sunshine State that will have a practical impact on the federal surveillance state.

In 2013, Florida became one of the first states in the country to pass legislation limiting the use of drones by law enforcement. That law only allows law enforcement agencies to use drones to collect “evidence or information” if they have a warrant, with just a few exceptions.

Today, the Florida built on that foundation and established tougher controls over law enforcement use of drones when Gov. Scott inked his name on Senate Bill 766 (SB766).

Sen. Dorothy Hukill (R-Port Orange) introduced the legislation in February. The new law expands the current limits on drones by banning any person, state agency, or political subdivision from using unmanned aircraft equipped with imaging devices “to record an image of privately owned or occupied real property or of the owner, tenant, or occupant of such property with the intent to conduct surveillance on the individual or property captured in the image in violation of such person’s reasonable expectation of privacy without his or her written consent.”

The Florida House unanimously passed the bill 117-0. The Senate approved the measure 37-2.

OffNow founder and deputy director Michael Boldin said passage of SB766 provides a blueprint for building on past victories.

“One step leads to another. Florida was one of the first to address drone surveillance in a meaningful way. That actually paved the way in other states,” he said. “It also laid a foundation to build on. Today, Florida has some of the strongest limits on drones in the country. Now other that have existing laws on drones can look at what Florida did and push the ball forward there – expanding privacy protections a step at a time.”

The new limits on drone use apply to state and local law enforcement, as well as other state or local agencies and private individuals with a few exceptions. Law enforcement can use a drone with an imaging device under the same conditions as it can currently conduct general surveillance. This includes with a warrant, to counter a high risk of terrorism, or if there exists an imminent danger to life or property.

The legislation also includes an expansive definition of “image.”

Image means a record of thermal, infrared, ultraviolet, visible light, or other electromagnetic waves; sound waves; odors; or other physical phenomena which captures conditions existing on or about real property or an individual located on that property.

SB766 provides both civil and punitive remedies against anyone guilty of violating these sections.

Impact on the federal surveillance state

SB766 focus exclusively on state and local drone use and do not apply directly federal agencies, the legislation would throw a high hurdle in front of some federal programs.

Much of the funding for drones at the state and local level comes from the federal government, in and of itself a constitutional violation. In return, federal agencies tap into the information gathered by state and local law enforcement through fusion centers and a federal program known as the information sharing environment.

The federal government encourages and funds a network of drones at the state and local level across the U.S., thereby gaining access to a massive data pool on Americans without having to expend the resources to collect the information itself. By placing restrictions on drone use, state and local governments limit the data available that the feds can access.

With the FBI rolling out facial a nationwide recognition program last fall, and the federal government building biometric databases, the fact that the feds can potentially access stored photographs represents a potential dystopian nightmare. By limiting the images obtained and stored by drones at the state and local level, it limits the information available to share with the federal programs.

SB766 makes up part of a bigger strategy to put an end to government drone surveillance. Each bill introduced, passed, and signed into law creates and builds momentum for other states to do the same.

Contact: Michael Maharrey
O: 213-863-0576


The OffNow Project is an organization committed to stopping unconstitutional NSA spying and reining in the surveillance-state through state and local activism.

Join the Conversation

1 Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

  1. I realize that too much enforcement is not good but with new infusions of illegals, ISIS, Taliban and other destructive elements, law enforcement is having a hard time keeping up with the current flood of problems. Florida has also been a haven for drugs as it has water on three sides of the state and many areas are barren with little population. 19,000 people are moving to Florida monthly. South Florida is a current disaster with overcrowding and housing problems crime is not new to Florida. Central, northern and north western Florida have less populations but many people are retired or upper level income and not many fields have above average income/livable wage/gainful employment depending on what you do. Taxes are going up in populated areas and jobs may be scarce in many areas. I have live here for 56 years and if there is a major hurricane in south Florida, it will be a problem. Most people moving here in the last few years don’t realize what happens in a real storm and the damage left behind is serious. Electric, water, fuel, supplies and mobility could be lost for days or weeks with debris everywhere blocking streets and highways. There is no perfect place with floods and earthquakes in others and tornadoes visit occasionally in Florida too mostly in the northwest panhandle in summer and southern Alabama. Florida has it’s plus since it is hot in the summer but the winters are mild and people sick of the snow may like it here. Florida needs many improvements in many areas but Florida Wildlife Officers have full jurisdiction throughout the state to protect the environment. Florida has a continuous problem with morons dumping non-native wildlife in the woods or everglades like Boa Constrictors and Anaconda’s which have no natural enemies and they have caused great damage to Florida’s ecosystem and wildlife. Those snakes have about 150 eggs per breeding cycle and can populate quickly. They have hunting seasons on them but you can’t get them all and they are out of control at this time. I wouldn’t worry as much about people taking pictures-if you aren’t or haven’t been doing something wrong-you have nothing to worry about. What I would worry about is the current coup/usurpation with a dual citizen POTUS installed by DNC criminals and the money that has been stolen and the future damage we will be paying for through the next decade. Serious damage and credibility with foreign nations have eroded work done by past presidents and this entire DNC cabal has been a wrecking crew to the Constitution and other laws from a lawless group of black Muslim and white Marxists bent on destruction of the U.S. and it’s Military.
    Most people don’t know that Florida was the first state to have cattle and Florida populated Texas with it’s cattle many decades ago. The term “Cracker” came from the Florida cowboys who had to use whips to crack to get the cows to raise their heads when they heard the sound since the brush was so thick in Florida that the cows would hide in the brush and were hard to find. Florida also has 4 of the largest cattle ranch herds in the U.S. out of the top 25. The cattle won’t mind the drones since the grass is more important.