Flying Airplane

One of the most interesting areas of criminal law involves how it needs to change as technology advances and new products and innovations are created. There are sometimes no laws on the books regarding how a new technology can be used, but laws may need to be created when potential infractions -- such as the violation of someone's right to privacy -- arise. This has taken place many times, and a perfect example is playing out again now, as Massachusetts works to regulate the use of drones.

The Proposed Law

The drafted proposal would make it so that people would be breaking the law if they flew a drone above city property without first getting the proper written consent. Perhaps more importantly, the same would hold true for flying it over private property. The "written consent" clause would make it possible to use drones for things like official photography projects, but it would ensure privacy was maintained because those impacted would have to sign off on it first.

The penalties under the proposal aren't terrifically strict, but they may deter civilians from simply using drones as they please. The first time the law was broken, a person could be handed a written warning. If caught again, he or she could be fined $100. This would jump to $200 for the next offense and $300 for everything after that.

Which Drones Count?

If the law passes, it wouldn't apply to all drones. Instead, it will only be used for drones that don't exceed 55 pounds and that are used under an altitude of 400 feet. This would theoretically allow the government to operate drones without breaking their own laws, but the consumer models, which are typically just a few pounds, would be well under the limit. This would also prevent anyone from arguing that a typical aircraft qualified as a "drone" if it was being flown by a remote system.

Privacy Rights

Privacy rights are a big concern in modern America, as many technological advancements -- computers, social media websites, online banking systems, and the like -- could impact them in brand new ways. Camera-equipped drones are simply one of the latest potential violations of privacy to be considered. It will be important for residents of Holyoke, Massachusetts, to pay attention to this proposal, as that's where the law could end up on the books. If it does, it will be intriguing to see if it spreads to other parts of the country.

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