The Atlantic reports that the California State Senate, in an effort to protect the privacy of citizens, has passed legislation that forces police to secure warrants for surveillance before they use drones. If there are exigent circumstances, police will not need a warrant. This legislation flies in the face of the Supreme Court’s decision in Florida v. Riley (1989), As Ronald Bailey of Reason delineated:
In the 1989 case Florida v. Riley, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that since airplanes and helicopters often fly over private property, citizens do not have a reasonable expectation of privacy that their activities will not be observed from the air. Consequently, the police were permitted use of evidence obtained without a search warrant from helicopter observation of a greenhouse in which they suspected marijuana was being grown.
The State Senate, voting 25-8, was following the lead of the California State Assembly, which had passed the legislation earlier in August. The legislation only needs the signature of California Governor Jerry Brown to make it the law of the state.
Critics of the law include public employee unions comprised of law enforcement members and the Los Angeles District Attorney’s office. The DA’s office said the law is “an inappropriate attempt to impose search and seizure requirements on California law enforcement agencies beyond what is required by the 4th Amendment.”
The Fourth Amendment reads: The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.