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Drones and Privacy

Combat attack drone
combat drone isolated on white background

The use of drones could be innocent, or for nefarious reasons. They could be something as simple as taking aerial photos of a sunset over the beach. But this kind of high-tech device could be used to snoop on someone inside of their house too. So the use of drones as snooping devices intrigues attorney Michael Ehline. He says UAV’s bring to mind many legal complications.

Government agencies and the military used the unmanned aerial craft for years. For example, it is helping to fight terrorism. And it has even been used to conduct domestic surveillance for years. But now, private companies like Amazon are seeking FAA approval for business use. For example, their “Prime Air” program recently hit the news. The Amazon website claims that aerial devices could be used to deliver online merchandise. They even compare it with pizza delivery.

Private Citizens and Drones.

Private citizens are not left out of the equation, with some being intrigued and others who have been hobbyists of this kind of technology. One of these people is Santa Barbara resident Cliff Baldridge, who is a tech-savvy aficionado and an everything Google expert. He has used radio controlled vehicles for approximately three decades and uses the drone aircraft for helpful and charitable purposes.

Mr. Baldridege believes he is an expert and uses drones to capture aerial footage of Santa Barbara vistas and then posts them on his Santa Barbara Arts TV page on YouTube. The pictures are taken with an AR Drone 2.0, which he has modified to hold a GO Pro HD camera and to use the modified technology enable Mr. Baldridge to have access to stunning images and video he said. He also said that without the utilization of the drone he would never be able to capture these images.

Potential Liability Issues?

Personal injury lawyer Michael Ehline, who writes a legal blog said Mr. Baldridge must be careful how he uses drones and the film. The licensed professional stated that there could be two legal issues with the use of these aircraft, the right to privacy and the FAA. Mr. Ehline said that even following the FAA licensing rules, the penal code is another issue. And this section includes people maintaining their reasonable expectation of privacy.

Reasonable Expectation of Privacy?

So the law is that recording in public places under California law is permitted, so long as you keep your reasonable expectation of privacy intact. An example would be people at the beach who are not aware they are on tape. So now could be a violation of the law. But at the same time, videoing a police officer making an arrest still remains legal.

This type of technology gives Mr. Ehline pause since he believes it is possible shortly that legislators and judges will agree with the use of government drone use. But of course, they will restrict private citizen’s use of the aircraft.

He said that it would not be unforeseen for law enforcement to argue they have the right to use drones to record, but at the same time take that ability out of the hands of the ordinary citizen. Mr. Ehline adds that in California the stance taken by the courts is a pro-government position.

District Attorney Joyce Dudley and a Santa Barbara representative made a statement for the News-Press that to their knowledge they do not use drones. Mr. Ehline still sees the use of these aerial vehicles could quickly become an invasion of privacy and said law enforcement should be held accountable and went on to say how beautiful it would be to have a drone capture a police stop recording the incident.

Recording Police Reduced Police Misconduct?

He cited the case of Rialto, where systematic video recording police officers on the job showed an 80% reduction in misconduct reports.  In this situation, the officers carried cameras. And those devices recorded their actions. But imagine how much better this would be with drones? I mean, it could keep less than admirable officers acting within the law right?

The other issue is that it could provide the government with the Legislature intends for using surveillance without a warrant. Even the drones planned to be used by Amazon could be tapped into, and companies like Amazon, who are attempting to get approval for enhanced business opportunities could decide to go along with requests by the government for drone information to gain that support.

The current private drone use regulations include:

  • Flying below 400 feet.

Mr. Baldridge said that the guidelines for recreational and hobbyists come from in a 1981 circular.  And these standards state that airborne model aircraft should remain a “sufficient distance from populated areas.” And Baldridge says you should not fly the craft above 400 feet.

Also, drones must remain within the sight of the pilot at all times. And this is to avoid endangering others and to avoid charges of recklessness.

  • Privacy.

Mr. Baldridge said that there is a general expectation of privacy in public. And he has not heard of any cases in Santa Barbara where people are concerned about their privacy. But he said that when this craft is over 50 feet in the air, it is as high as a palm tree. So for him, it’s filming public scenery and landscape. So in that case, the drone isn’t low enough to look in someone’s windows.

According to District Attorney Dudley, she does not know of any current lawsuits of private done use.

  • The FAA is working to establish rules to include drone use in national airspace.
  • This process is going slowly, and the agency has reported being behind schedule in developing standards. So the agency will not meet a September 2015 deadline. Transportation Department Inspector General, Calvin Scovel III stated as much at a House Transportation aviation subcommittee back in 2014.

The California Assembly passed drone-related legislation pending; AB 2306 was finally signed by Governor Brown. The law now codifies the illegality of unmanned aircraft systems to invade a person’s privacy.

  • Senator Dianne Feinstein, the chairwoman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, spoke out about a personal incident with a drone. And that has made her question her backing of the NSA surveillance program in the past about personal privacy. Sen. Feinstein said on 60 Minutes that she was in her home and there was a demonstration outside.  When she went to look out the window, there was a drone outside the window.

She said this made her question what benefit there was to society to have drone use. Also, she pondered when it could be considered stalking or invade privacy. She wondered how close to a home a is drone permitted to be. The legal part of drone regulation remains to be discovered. Also, whether or not California legislation will clamp down on drones, invasion of privacy or other nuisance.

Other Sources:


Drones story 3-24(1)

Firearms Open Carry Laws in California

Car accident lawyer Michael Ehline at gun range
Michael Ehline, personal injury lawyer

By Attorney Michael P. Ehline, Esq. In the past, California allowed you to transport unloaded firearms in public. But the law said your gun had to be empty. Also, prohibited areas disallowed carrying of a gun at all.

The designated prohibited areas, by these laws, included government buildings, school zones (under the California Gun Free School Zone Act), and post offices. So you could not open carry there.

What are The Recent Anti Second Amendment Open Carry Laws in CA?

However, the California “open carry” gun rights law would see drastic changes on January 1, 2012, when the California Assembly Bill 144 went into effect. This new law made it illegal to carry unloaded handguns openly.

California Penal Code Section 26350 outlines this in detail, which describes openly carrying an unloaded handgun in specific public places, is now a misdemeanor offense. But people exercising their Second Amendment right to bear arms, by lawfully carrying their firearms remained confused. The Second Amendment allegedly provides gun owners protection from being wrongfully harassed, arrested or prosecuted, for carrying a legal firearm.

So if the time comes that you find you are in trouble for legally carrying your gun, we can help you in this situation. We defend the rights of individuals accused of allegedly violating California gun laws. And we specialize in this area of the law. Plus, we have a complete understanding of the California “open carry” laws and how alleged criminal conduct in this area occurs.

Understanding the California “Open Carry” Laws

What “open carry” means is that an individual is carrying a legal firearm in plain sight. California law has never expressly authorized the ability to carry a weapon openly. Because of this, other California state laws did not prohibit carrying. But this has changed with the endorsement of California Penal Code 26350.

One crucial factor is that the new law only applies to handguns and not to rifles or shotguns. This law leaves several avenues for gun activists to have support, even with the limitations of the enactment of the law. Law abiding gun owners should have the capacity to exercise their Second Amendment right to bear arms openly.

Openly Carrying Serves Two Purposes:

  • Carrying remains an effective way to prevent being a victim of a violent crime and avoid personal injury.
  • Possessing a firearm is also a visual deterrent. So that way, it won’t force the gun owner to use the weapon.

Open carry laws in California did not apply to assault weapons. [liberals in the legislature think any gun that looks scary is an assault weapon]. And these are prohibited from being openly carried under Penal Code Section 12280. Also this section prohibits the possession of destructive devices.

Politics and Open Carry

In 2004 the Unloaded Open Carry (UOC), the movement began and had gained momentum over the years. There are currently 38 states that have variations of this law, and every state has UOC activists.

Anti Freedom AG
Human trash.

Eric Holder, Anti Second Amendment Activist

In the state of California, these activists often gathered in public places for “meet-ups,” which include restaurants and Starbucks in particular. When these gatherings occur, some people who openly carry will wear tape recorders.

And some others will possibly carry video recorders. In some cases, they may have a lawyer present at this gathering of enthusiasts. What they are attempting, is to passively invite an altercation with law enforcement to challenge their legal, “civil” rights in court.

These group meetings are a way to protest the California legislation that relates to concealed weapons permits by the activists. Individuals supporting open carrying of firearms say the state only issues the concealed weapons permit to “well connected” people. And they claim Sheriffs deny the applications of ordinary citizens.

Permission to Open Carry

Anyone under the age of 18, who are minors.

California say individuals who are a potential threat to themselves or other people, and individuals diagnosed with a mental disorder can’t own guns. People convicted of a felony can’t possess, own, purchase or receive firearms either. Because of this, California’s Penal Code Section 12021 spells out penalties under the “felon with firearm” law.

Back in the day, handguns, shotguns, and rifles could be openly carried. So if you were not legally barred from owning or possessing firearms you could carry.

Openly, such as in a holster

  • Carrying of an unloaded magazine in the gun

So this helps to avoid the legal issue of having a concealed or partially concealed magazine. It was an illegally concealed weapon in that case. The open carry laws in California applied to weapons you carried on your person and firearms openly possessed in a vehicle or motorcycle. When passing through a school zone, you would have been required to place your weapons in a locked case. And this is how you complied with Penal Code § 12026.1.

Understanding Other Illegal Acts

Violation of the California Penal Code § 12025, “carrying a concealed weapon” law, you will have no protection by the open carry laws. Open carry is the right to carry a firearm openly in public. In specific circumstances, numerous other California gun laws will prohibit the carrying of a firearm legally. Most of all, it is important to ensure you are not violating any of these other statutes when carrying a gun.

Carrying Concealed and Loaded Weapons

What about when you are going to and from the gun range, or gunsmith, for example? California Penal Code § 12012 is the state’s code for the carrying of a concealed weapon law, and if you violate this code, then you will not be protected by the open carry laws. This is true because of open carry is the carrying of a firearm plainly and openly in public.

So you could carry the unloaded gun and ammunition separately unless you used it in a felony. But if used in a crime, your gun was deemed “loaded.”  The law permitted residents to carry a loaded weapon.

But that was only in specific situations like:

In your home

  • On private property

Certain businesses, in which you have at least a “possessory” interest in, can exclude others, or control the activities within. So even if a police officer stops you in a location not prohibited from opening carry a firearm, you must let them inspect your weapon. Most of all, cops inspect to assure you have an unloaded weapon. If not, the police officers have probable cause to arrest you.

Prohibited Behavior

California Penal Code § 417 states those compliant with the open carry laws must have unloaded weapons. In fact, it must remain visible, in a location where it is legal. Also, you may not use the gun to intimidate or threaten any person. It is likely if you pull your firearm in a threatening, angry or rude manner that prosecutors will charge you with a crime.

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