Lawmaker’s idea would keep drones off private property

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SANTA FE, N.M. (KRQE) – As drones become increasingly popular, one lawmaker wants to keep them from flying over people’s private property and spying on others.

Trespassing is illegal. Now, Sen. Gerald Ortiz y Pino, D-Albuquerque, wants to put flying drones into a similar category when it comes to private property.

“Basically, there’s little or no protection against the invasion of a person’s privacy right now if we don’t pass this legislation,” Sen. Ortiz y Pino said.

The bill would make it illegal for the average citizen, law enforcement or any state agency to fly a drone over private property and conduct surveillance — whether the drone is taking pictures, recording or feeding video or gathering evidence for a criminal case.

The drone pilot would need permission from the property owner, or, in the case of law enforcement — a search warrant.

The only exception to the law, if passed, would be for law enforcement in exigent circumstances, like monitoring a police pursuit or when someone’s life is feared to be in immediate danger.

Farmer Janet Jarratt from Valencia County asked Sen. Ortiz y Pino the sponsor this bill. For her, it’s about protecting farmers.

“We’ve had instances in Valencia County of people being stalked by drone and it’s terrifying,” Jarratt said. “And right now without this bill you can’t do anything about it.”

Jarratt says those incidents have scared livestock, putting them in danger and have raised concerns of spying on farming practices.

There’s also the fear of drones being used for bio-terror attacks by dropping small payloads of chemicals onto farms.

This bill died in committee two years ago. On Tuesday, it went to its first committee during the 2017 legislative session. There’s no word yet on a vote from the committee, but Sen. Ortiz y Pino is hopeful it will make it to Gov. Martinez’s desk.

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