Police Chief Trying To Find Some Way To Charge Drone Operator Who Didn't Break Any Laws
from the I-AM-THE-[NONEXISTENT]-LAW dept
Don’t let the fact that no crime occurred stop you from attempting to prosecute someone, Sparky. (via PINAC)
Naperville Police Chief Robert Marshall said he is consulting the city’s legal department after the three-minute video posted on YouTube by user JPDrone came to his attention. Shot at night, a drone camera flies over City Hall and several downtown streets, providing a unique view of seasonal decorations while cars and pedestrians move around city streets below.
Photography Is Not A Crime points out that there is no law in Illinois that addresses what happened here. The closest the state gets to private drone prohibition involves a very specific set of circumstances.
While Illinois has passed a law making it a crime to use a drone to interfere with hunting and fishing, there are no other state laws preventing the public from using “drones,” more appropriately called RC (remote-controlled) copters.
If the local lawyers can’t figure out some way to nail John Pauley for his not-illegal act, Chief Marshall is willing to go over his own head.
“Obviously, if they’re flying over a public area, you have to ask if there’s any risk to public safety, who’s the operator and if he’s abiding by the regulations set in place by the FAA,” Marshall said. “There was a request from an individual who wanted to fly a drone camera overhead at Ribfest last summer, and we did not allow that.”
Ah, “public safety.” The one-size-fits-all hammer for every annoying nail that refuses to fit neatly into existing legal confines. The thing is, John Pauley has been very careful about his drone usage ever since his run-in with the Geneva (IL) police department officers, who expressed concern about his flying camera. Since then, Pauley has made an effort to notify proper employees before taking to the air. This includes the Naperville Police Department.
He said he called Naperville police before doing the nighttime video, which he said was filmed from less than 200 feet above the city.
This statement remains unaddressed. Neither confirmed nor denied or even acknowledged. So, it’s Pauley’s word against the Naperville PD’s, the latter of which hasn’t offered any words contradicting his claim.
Maybe Chief Marshall is just suffering from drone envy. Illinois state laws do prohibit the use of drones by law enforcement.
Section 10. Prohibited use of drones. Except as provided in Section 15, a law enforcement agency may not use a drone to gather information.
The Section 15 exceptions (and there are a lot of them) are: preventing a terrorist attack, with a warrant, imminent harm to life, locating a missing person (but notably, not as part of a criminal investigation), and crime scene/crash photography. Flying over private land for the latter also requires the acquisition of a search warrant. “Freedom from drone surveillance,” as the law is titled. That applies to law enforcement only. It says nothing about private use.
The FAA may choose to fine Pauley if Chief Marshall decides to rat him out (the FAA restricts private drone usage to daytime hours), but it appears there’s little he can actually do about this from his end. Marshall appears to believe that if he thinks something’s illegal, it must actually be, even if all evidence points in the other direction — really not the sort of attitude you want in a law enforcement official.
As of yet, no charges have been filed, but never underestimate the creativity of law enforcement personnel whose common sense has been shouted down by their desire to prosecute.