Criminal Justice

North Dakota legalizes weaponized drones for police use

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A new law allows North Dakota police officers to use drones outfitted with “less than lethal” weapons.

That means police can use drones equipped with everything from Tasers to tear gas, the Daily Beast reports. The law was enacted after the drone bill underwent significant changes.

The intent of the original bill was to require police to obtain a search warrant before using a drone to search for criminal evidence. The original draft would have banned any weapons on police drones.

The bill was changed as a result of opposition from drone and business groups and input from a lobbyist with the North Dakota Peace Officer’s Association. The bill’s sponsor, Rep. Rick Becker, said he would have preferred a total weapons ban, but he had to live with the change allowing drones to carry less than lethal weapons.

“In my opinion there should be a nice, red line,” the Republican lawmaker told the Daily Beast. “Drones should not be weaponized. Period.”

The warrant requirement survived.

Grand Forks County Sheriff Bob Rost, which uses two loaned drones equipped with cameras, doesn’t like the new warrant requirement. He told the Daily Beast he needs surveillance drones to obtain a warrant in the first place.

The sheriff’s department has conducted 401 drone operations in nearly three years, according to the Federal Aviation Administration. The department, however, counts only 21 drone missions. The reason for the discrepancy is unclear, the article reports.

See also:

ABA Journal: “How should states regulate drones and aerial surveillance?”

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