COLUMBUS -- Law enforcement agencies would have to obtain search warrants to use drones to gather evidence to be used in criminal proceedings, under legislation being considered in the Ohio Senate.
SB 60 seeks to establish procedures for officers' use of unmanned aerial vehicles.
"In the past few years, drones have become an omnipresent device in our society," Sen. Mike Skindell (D-Lakewood), primary co-sponsor of the bill, said in testimony to the Senate's Local Government, Public Safety and Veterans Affairs Committee Tuesday. "Under current law, there are no safeguards and guidelines for drone use with respect to law enforcement. This may cause serious issues and concerns with respect to privacy and civil liberties."
Skindell and Sen. Kris Jordan (R-Ostrander) offered comparable legislation last session that did gain support for passage.
This session's SB 60 would require search warrants to gather evidence for use in in criminal investigations except in circumstances involving "immediate danger of a person's death or serious physical injury," according to an analysis by the state's Legislative Service Commission.
Additional provisions are made in the bill for drone use to collect crime or traffic accident scene video or pictures or during searches for missing people.
Law enforcement agencies also would be required to report annually the number of times they used drones in criminal investigations and the type of data that were collected.
Skindell said 18 states already have enacted legislation regulating drone usage, and others are considering similar bills.
" We're just trying to put guardrails on [drone usage by law enforcement] to protect people's civil liberties," Jordan told the Senate panel March 21.
Marc Kovac covers the Ohio Statehouse for Gatehouse Media. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter at OhioCapitalBlog.