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Bipartisan drone bill signed into law

MADISON – Today, Governor Scott Walker signed Senate Bill 196, the Drone Privacy Protection Act, into law. The bill overwhelmingly passed the Assembly and Senate on voice votes. In a show of bipartisanship, Rep. Tyler August (R-Lake Geneva), Rep. Frederick P. Kessler (D-Milwaukee), Rep. Dave Craig (R-Town of Vernon) and Rep. Chris Taylor (D-Madison) introduced SB-196 to ensure drones are not intentionally used to violate the privacy rights of Wisconsin citizens.

The bill impacts both law enforcement’s use of drones as well as the general public. Under the law, law enforcement will be prohibited from using drones equipped with video or audio recording equipment to collect evidence or information in a criminal investigation where an individual has a reasonable expectation of privacy, without first obtaining a search warrant. Certain emergency exceptions to this prohibition include locating an escaped prisoner, aiding in a search and rescue mission, executing an arrest warrant or preventing imminent harm to a person or the imminent destruction of evidence.

“I applaud Governor Walker for signing this bill today. As technology advances, we must remain ever vigilant to ensure our privacy laws evolve,” said Rep. August. “This law will guarantee that our civil liberties remain intact.”

This bill does not impact activities of drone hobbyists, entrepreneurs or aerial photographers to use drones as long as the use does not intentionally violate an individual’s privacy interests in places where they have the expectation of privacy, such as their homes.

“When technology may be utilized to save a life or assist in an emergency, we should use that technology,” said Rep. Kessler. “However, we must ensure that neither law enforcement, nor an individual, is permitted to use a drone in violation of anyone’s rights to privacy.”

Additionally, the bi-partisan law will prohibit an individual from attaching a weapon to a drone.

“Due process of the law must be employed before government intrudes on any citizen’s constitutionally guaranteed rights,” said Rep. Craig. “This bill protects our important civil liberties.”

According to the American Civil Liberties Union, 43 states are considering 96 bills related to domestic drone usage. Wisconsin will be the ninth state to regulate drone usage, joining Florida, Idaho, Illinois, Montana, Oregon, Tennessee, Texas and Virginia.

“While Democrats and Republicans have passionate debates over many policy areas, the Drone Privacy Protection Act is the epitome of the type of consensus bipartisan legislation that the people of Wisconsin should expect from our government,” said Rep. Taylor.

The bill will became law effective Thursday, April 10, 2014.