The North Dakota Senate today considered and rejected a bill which would have required that law enforcement obtain a warrant before using a surveillance drone in a criminal investigation.
Video is worth watching as Senator Joe Miller, when it became clear the bill would probably fail, asked that it be divided so that the portion of the bill calling for a study could be voted on separately. The bill was divided, and the Senate voted down both divisions, leaving a total bill to be voted on with no language which confused Lt. Governor Drew Wrigley (acting as President of the Senate) for a few minutes.
It’s disappointing that the Senate wouldn’t even vote to study the issue, but the economic development arguments related to UND being a potential test site for drone research trumped civil liberties concerns.
Some Senators even trivialized those concerns. Senator Kelly Armstrong said that 4th amendment protections apply to law enforcement regardless of the vehicle for their surveillance. He said that it’s illegal to use evidence gathered through something like peeing through windows whether a drone is used or not. “Even a small town defense lawyer is probably going to get that suppressed,” said Senator Armstrong (who is a defense lawyer).
But just because the evidence might not be admissible in court doesn’t mean it still might not be collected, and used to inform other less legally dubious aspects of a given investigation.
It was disappointing to see this bill fail.