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California State Regulation of Drones

In the 2013-2014 session, the California legislature adopted two bills concerning the commercial use of drones.  Only one of them survived the Governor’s veto.

AB 2306 is a modest expansion of existing privacy law that was signed into law by the Governor in September, 2014.  It clarifies that existing laws defining what is an invasion of privacy apply to images or sound recordings captured by a drone.  As of January 1, 2015, a person can be liable under existing invasion of privacy statutes if he or she uses a drone to capture a video or sound recording of a person engaging in activities in which the person has a reasonable expectation of privacy.  See Civil Code 1708.8.

AB 1327 was vetoed by the Governor on September 30, 2014.  This measure would have required a local law enforcement agency to obtain a warrant prior to use of a drone, subject to a number of exceptions.  The measure was generally opposed by law enforcement agencies, who object to a strict statutory warrant requirement and prefer to rely on the courts to apply more existing Fourth Amendment jurisprudence more flexibly to new technologies.   The California legislature has introduced bills in the current session that are functionally identical to AB 1327 in the hopes that the Governor will not veto the measure if presented it outside the context of an election campaign.