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Police may soon be subject to drone surveillance restrictions

Published: Monday, Aug. 3 2015 3:44 p.m. MDT

Local law enforcement agencies gather around a drone and surveillance equipment demonstration at Weber County Fairgrounds. (Marc Weaver, Deseret News Archives) Local law enforcement agencies gather around a drone and surveillance equipment demonstration at Weber County Fairgrounds. (Marc Weaver, Deseret News Archives)

SALT LAKE CITY — Amidst concerns of privacy, the House passed on to the governor a bill that would require police to obtain a warrant to use unmanned aerial vehicles, commonly known as drones. The House voted 67-5 Thursday to approve SB167, which would regulate surveillance of Utahns by applying current warrant requirements to drones. The bill states law enforcement agencies may use drones to collect information only if they have a warrant or in cases already judicially determined to be exceptions to requiring a warrant. It also sets requirements for storage and disposal of collected data. Similar legislation has been passed in at least nine other states, according to Rep. Marc Roberts, R-Santaquin, House sponsor of HB167. Roberts said he and bill sponsor Sen. Howard Stephenson, R-Draper, worked hard to "find a good balance that would preserve Fourth Amendment rights while still allowing law enforcement and the public to enjoy the benefits drones could provide."

House Democrats showed support for the bill in a news release Thursday.

"We have always been invested in keeping our laws up to date with technology. Protecting our rights as we navigate this new territory is incredibly important. If we fall behind these advancements, we lose liberties. HB167 protects those liberties that we have held dear since the dawn of our country," said House Assistant Minority Whip Rebecca Chavez-Houck, D-Salt Lake City.

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