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House votes to ban cops from using drones

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SPRINGFIELD-With almost no debate, the Illinois House Thursday passed the Freedom from Drone Surveillance Act, which would prohibit police from using unmanned aircrafts to gather information with a few exceptions.

The bill, sponsored by Rep. Ann Williams (D-Chicago), breezed through the House by a 105-12 vote and now moves to the Senate.

"The idea here is to address this proactively and to ensure that the privacy protections for citizens are in place...to ensure that the privacy protections afforded to us in the Constitution under the First and the Fourth Amendments are in tact," Williams said.

Under the plan, police could use drones in certain cases such as to counter a terrorist attack, locate a missing person or gather information specifically for crime scenes and traffic crash scene photography.

Police would have to demonstrate probable cause and first obtain a warrant, which would last no more than 45 days. Police could use drones without a warrant in certain emergencies but for no more than 48 hours.

All information gathered by a drone would be destroyed within 30 days unless there is reason to believe it contains evidence of criminal activity or is part of an ongoing investigation. However, none of that information would be admissible in a court of law if the court finds that police gathered the data illegally.

Williams said she knows of at least two law enforcement agencies in Illinois that are exploring and testing the idea and that a number of states already have laws to limit their use. She also said drones are becoming less invasive with better technology.

"At this point, drones are getting smaller. They're getting cheaper. They come in a variety of types with a variety of uses," Williams said.

The bill now moves to the Senate, which last month passed a similar plan by a 52-1 vote. If passed there, the bill would go to Gov. Pat Quinn, whose office was not immediately available for comment.

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