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Bill That Widens Use Of Police Drones Without A Warrant Advances

Representative Robert Morris at statehouse

Rep. Robert Morris says the state's current police drone law requires departments to obtain search warrants for activities they wouldn't otherwise need them for (Barbara Brosher, WFIU/WTIU News). (Barbara Brosher, WFIU/WTIU News)

A bill that would create more exceptions for police to fly a drone without a search warrant passed a Senate committee Tuesday. 

Current Indiana law requires police to get a search warrant before putting a drone in the air, unless it’s an emergency situation.

Representative Robert Morris’ (R-Ft. Wayne) bill would widen the exceptions to make search warrants unnecessary if police are using the drone to safeguard the public at a public event or place, or to collect evidence at a place with no reasonable expectation of privacy.

Morris says in one case out of Ft. Wayne, police didn’t obtain a search warrant before taking pictures of a crash site because they wanted to restore traffic flow as quickly as possible.

"In court currently if you don’t have a warrant to shoot those pictures, they throw all the pictures out," Morris says. "They could not use those in court."

 The Indiana Public Defender Council would like to see language added to the bill that makes it clear a warrant is required if police want to fly a drone over private property to collect evidence. The agency also wants to see police departments adopt policies that stipulate how long they'll store drone footage. 

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