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Illinois State Police Receive Limited Authorization to Use Drones

Posted on in Traffic Offenses

use drones, Illinois Criminal Defense AttorneyThe law surrounding civilian or local government drone use is something of a quagmire. Drones raise serious privacy and civil liberties concerns. Additionally, they are also governed by the FAA as an aircraft. While full clarity on drone law is still some ways away, a recent decision by the FAA has important implications for Illinois residents.

The FAA recently approved the use of drones by the Illinois State Police in some, limited circumstances. However, the police are avoiding the use of the word drone in an attempt to demonstrate the limited nature of their use, which does not involve surveillance or criminal investigations.

Shying Away from the Word Drone

Although drones are the common name for unmanned aerial vehicles, police who are discussing the announcement are avoiding the actual word. The cited reason for the avoidance is because the word drone conjures of images of roving surveillance or automated flight patterns. Instead, police have opted to use the phrase “unmanned aircraft” to demonstrate the limited use to which the police will put them.

How an Unmanned Aircraft Will be Used

The FAA gave a two-year license on the use of the unmanned aircraft, provided that the police comply with the 2013 Illinois Freedom from Drone Surveillance Act, a state law that places limitations on the use of drones by state police. The law was passed in light of the legal grey area created by drones to ensure that the police do not use them to improperly invade people's privacy.

The Freedom from Drone Surveillance Act imposes several important limits on the use of drones. First, police are not simply allowed to fly the drones over their jurisdictions, recording any information that they see. Instead, if the police want to use a drone for surveillance, they must first seek a warrant. Additionally, any information gathered by a drone must be deleted within 30 days unless the recording contains evidence of criminal activity or is otherwise pertinent to an ongoing investigation.

However, the Act does preserve the ability to make use of drones in non-threatening ways. The Act allows police to use drones to take aerial photography of crime scenes and traffic accident sites. Police say that this will allow them to more easily view a whole scene, which may be make it easier to document and solve crimes.

Finally, police have stated that this will speed up the process of documenting traffic accidents, allowing them to clear the road sooner and get traffic back to normal. The Act also allows for the use of drones in a few other circumstances, such as in the case of missing persons investigations, terrorist attacks, natural disasters, and public health crises.

It is important for people to understand that this authorization of drone use is limited. If you have been charged with a crime, and believe that that your rights were violated by the use of a police drone or some other improper tactic, please contact a skilled McHenry County criminal defense attorney today.
Illinois State Bar Association State Bar of Wisconsin Crystal Lake Chamber of Commerce Illinois Trial Lawyers Association McHenry County Bar Association
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