Bill bans drone use for collecting evidence without warrant

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SANTA FE (AP) – A proposal that would ban the use of police drones from gathering evidence without a warrant in New Mexico cleared its first hurdle on Tuesday.

The Senate Public Affairs Committee voted 6-2 to move along the proposal.

The bill, sponsored by state Sen. Gerald Ortiz y Pino, D-Albuquerque, and Rep. Paul Pacheco, R-Albuquerque, would prevent unwarranted material from being used in court and would allow people targeted by drones to seek civil action.

The measure would not prohibit the use of a drone when “swift action is necessary to prevent imminent danger to life,” the bill states.

The move came as police departments in New Mexico consider using drones in investigations.

“It’s something we need to take a look at,” Ortiz y Pino said. The use of unregulated drones could pose a threat to property and privacy rights.

Sen. Craig Brandt, R-Rio Rancho, said he was concerned the proposal might hurt police by limiting the use of drones.

Earlier this week, the federal government proposed drone rules for aerial photography and mapping, crop monitoring, and inspections of cell towers, bridges and other tall structures.

The Federal Aviation Administration proposed requirements for commercial operators such as passing a knowledge test administered by the agency as well as a federal security check in order to fly small drones, defined as weighing less than 55 pounds.

It is likely to be two or three years before the rules are made final, but federal officials said that once they are in place the economic and safety benefits of unmanned aircraft are expected to be enormous.

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