AB 1327 has gotten more recent attention from the legislature, with the last amendment to the bill taking place on May 5, 2014 (the last amendment to SB 15 took place on August 6, 2013).
The Warrant Requirement for Law Enforcement
Like SB 15, AB 1327 would add a Title 14 to the California Penal Code, which would be devoted to regulating the use of drones. The bulk of Title 14 is devoted to regulating the government's use of drones. Section 14350 states:
(a) A public agency shall not use an unmanned aircraft system, or contract for the use of an unmanned aircraft system, except as provided in this title. This title shall apply to all public and private entities when contracting with a public agency for the use of an unmanned aircraft system.
(b) A law enforcement agency may use an unmanned aircraft system if it has obtained a warrant based on probable cause pursuant to this code.
(c) (1) A law enforcement agency, without obtaining a warrant, may use an unmanned aircraft system in emergency situations if there is an imminent threat to life or of great bodily harm, including, but not limited to, fires, hostage crises, “hot pursuit” situations if reasonably necessary to prevent harm to law enforcement officers or others, and search and rescue operations on land or water.
(2) A law enforcement agency, without obtaining a warrant, may use an unmanned aircraft system to assess the necessity of first responders in situations relating to traffic accidents, to inspect state parks and wilderness areas for illegal vegetation, or fires.
(d) (1) A public agency other than a law enforcement agency may use an unmanned aircraft system, or contract for the use of an unmanned aircraft system, to achieve the core mission of the agency provided that the purpose is unrelated to the gathering of criminal intelligence.
(2) Except as permitted by this title and when a law enforcement agency is not required to obtain a warrant as specified in this title, data collected pursuant to this subdivision shall not be disseminated to a law enforcement agency unless the agency has obtained a warrant for the data based on probable cause pursuant to this code.Notably, this bill does not include the "reasonable expectation of privacy" language from SB 15, which states that warrants must be obtained to collect information on people when they have a reasonable expectation of privacy. This means that AB 1327 would prohibit the collection of information through drones even when people lack a reasonable expectation of privacy in that information -- unless the collection falls into the enumerated exceptions.
Additional Restrictions: Weaponization, Information Collection, and Limits on Private Use of Drones
Section 1452 would require that information collected by drones be destroyed after one year unless the information is involved in pending litigation or a filed claim, or if the information was collected pursuant to a warrant.
Section 1453 would prohibit people from attaching weapons to drones. Specifically, the bill prohibits the attachment of "a weapon or other device that may be carried by or launched from an unmanned aircraft system and that is intended to cause bodily injury or death, or damage to, or the destruction of, real or personal property."
The bill also calls for alterations to the government code to classify certain information collected by drones as public records subject to disclosure.
It is also nice to see that the bill recognizes that federal regulations may one day exist that would trump California laws, and the bill states in section 14355 that the bill is not meant to trump federal law on the subject. But subsection (b) of section 14355 leaves open the possibility that California's restrictions on drone use will be more restrictive than the federal regulations.
Lastly, the bill includes a section which states:
14357. The surveillance restrictions on electronic devices pursuant to Chapter 1.5 (commencing with Section 630) of Title 15 of Part 1 shall apply to unmanned aircraft systems.This seems to carry out the same function as the sections of SB 15 which went through a line-by-line iteration of the Penal Code restrictions on invasion of privacy with added drone language. AB 1327 is less restrictive than SB 15 when it comes to invasion of privacy because this section only states that Penal Code restrictions on invasion of privacy will apply to unmanned aircraft systems. Beyond these criminal laws, SB 15 stated that the civil tort of invasion of privacy would apply to unmanned aircraft systems.
The main takeaway from this discussion is that AB 1327 is more restrictive than SB 15 when it comes to the government's use of drones to collect evidence. In my third post on California's proposed drone laws, I will discuss the benefits and disadvantages of these bills, and whether they will run into any problems of statutory interpretation or constitutional law.