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Published on Friday, March 21, 2014

Regulating the future use of drones

This year, Washington joined about nine other states in regulating the use of drones. EHB 2789 established protocols for the purchasing and operation of drones. Currently, no state agency or local law enforcement reports using or even having drones, but the technology is available. 

Under the bill, no state agency or law enforcement can purchase a drone without getting approval from the governing body. This is not much of a change from existing purchasing practices for local law enforcement. Additionally the agencies must have a warrant or exigent circumstances to authorize the use of drones. 

AWC worked with WASPC and WAPA (Washington Association of Prosecuting Attorneys) to address concerns throughout the process. Earlier versions made it nearly impossible for future use of drones. These devices can someday assist law enforcement to monitor dangerous situations without risking lives. 

The final bill has one section that WAPA is requesting be vetoed by the Governor. Section 12 would prohibit the use of any personal information obtained by the drone in court proceedings. This could result in losing key evidence and identification of persons involved in crimes. WAPA sent a letter asking for this partial veto to ensure proper evidence can be maintained. 

Local editorials call for Governor Inslee to veto the legislation. These authors criticize the bill for only addressing drone use in state and local agencies, not private use. Other criticisms include contradictory language and the need to study the issue further before enacting legislation. Click here to read the editorials: Seattle Times, the Olympian

AWC is concerned about regulating something that no agencies yet use and agree that more discussion is needed on regulation. These devices could provide safety and the ability to solve crimes more quickly and we want to protect the ability of cities to use them in the future.  

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