BILL ANALYSIS                                                                                                                                                                                                    

                             Senator Ricardo Lara, Chair
                            2015 - 2016  Regular  Session

          AB 56 (Quirk) - Unmanned aircraft systems
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          |Version: July 16, 2015          |Policy Vote: PUB. S. 4 - 2,     |
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          |Urgency: No                     |Mandate: Yes                    |
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          |Hearing Date: August 17, 2015   |Consultant: Jolie Onodera       |
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          This bill meets the criteria for referral to the Suspense File. 


          Summary:  AB 56 would establish procedural and privacy  
          protection standards under which a law enforcement agency may  
          use, obtain, or use information from, an unmanned aircraft  
          system (UAS), as specified. 

           Significant one-time and ongoing non-reimbursable local law  
            enforcement agency costs (Local Funds) to adhere to the  
            standards and protections provided for under this measure  
            including but not limited to the development of policies,  
            procedures, training, data security, collection, and  
            retention, and public access.
           One-time and ongoing potentially significant future cost  
            pressure (General Fund/Special Fund) to the extent UAS are  
            utilized in the future by state agencies including but not  
            limited to the Department of Justice (DOJ), the California  


          AB 56 (Quirk)                                          Page 1 of  
            Highway Patrol (CHP), and the Department of Fish and Wildlife  

          Background:  An unmanned aircraft system, also referred to as "unmanned  
          aerial vehicle," "remote piloted aircraft," or "drone," is an  
          aircraft without a human pilot that is either controlled  
          remotely or fully automated. Along with a variety of businesses,  
          law enforcement agencies across the country are considering how  
          this technology could assist in their operations. According to  
          one report:
            As drones become cheaper and more capable, more police  
            departments across the country are asking for and  
            getting federal approval to use them for law  
            enforcement. But the Federal Aviation Administration  
            only takes safety into consideration when it grants a  
            law enforcement agency approval to use drones, leaving  
            privacy protections to legislation-which, depending on  
            the state in question, may or may not exist.  Agencies  
            as large as the Michigan State Police and as small as  
            the Grand Forks County [N.D.] Sheriff's Department have  
            received FAA approval to use drones.  Most departments  
            use them for missions like search-and-rescue or for  
            photographing a crime scene or an accident site.  But  
            unless a law enforcement agency is within one of the 14  
            states that have passed privacy legislation limiting  
            how police can use drones, there's little in theory  
            keeping it from using a drone for a less innocuous  
            end-such as surveillance without a warrant.  (Kaveh  
            Waddell, Few Privacy Limitations Exist on How Police  
            Use Drones, National Journal (February 5, 2015).) 
          This bill seeks to establish procedural and privacy protection  
          standards should law enforcement agencies choose to utilize this  

          Proposed Law:  
           This bill would prohibit a law enforcement agency from using a  
          UAS, obtaining a UAS from another public agency by contract,  
          loan, or other arrangement, or using information obtained from a  
          UAS used by another public agency, except as authorized below:  
           Provides that the bill's provisions apply to all law  
            enforcement agencies and private entities when contracting  


          AB 56 (Quirk)                                          Page 2 of  
            with or acting as the agent of a law enforcement agency.
           Authorizes a law enforcement agency to use a UAS, or use  
            information obtained from a UAS used by another public agency,  
            if the law enforcement agency complies with protections  
            against unreasonable searches guaranteed by the U.S.  
            Constitution and the California Constitution, as well as all  
            applicable federal state, and local laws including, but not  
            limited to, regulations of the Federal Aviation  
           States that if the use of a UAS by a local law enforcement  
            agency may involve the collection of images, footage, or data  
            from another county, city, or city and county, the law  
            enforcement agency must obtain a warrant based on probable  
            cause, unless an exigent circumstance exists.
           Prohibits a law enforcement agency from using a UAS or  
            information obtained from a UAS used by another public agency,  
            to surveil private property unless the law enforcement agency  
            has obtained a search warrant based on probable cause, the  
            express permission of the person or entity with the legal  
            authority to authorize a search of the specific private  
            property, or is using the system under specified exigent  
           Requires, before a law enforcement agency may use a UAS, that  
            the agency develop and make available to the public, as  
            specified, a policy on the use of the UAS and train the law  
            enforcement agency's officers and employees on the policy. 
           Requires a law enforcement agency's policy on the use of a UAS  
            to include numerous specified provisions, and requires the  
            policy to be reviewed at least once every three years to  
            evaluate whether changes are needed. 
           Requires, before the policy is finalized, that a law  
            enforcement agency present the proposed policy at a regularly  
            scheduled and noticed public meeting of its governing body  
            with an opportunity for public comment.
           Requires images, footage, or data obtained through the use of  
            a UAS to be permanently destroyed within one year, unless the  
            images, footage, or data were obtained pursuant to a search  
            warrant or are used for specified purposes.
           Specifies that images, footage, or data obtained through the  
            use of a UAS or any related record, including usage logs or  
            logs that identify any person or entity that subsequently  
            obtains or requests records of that system, are public records  
            subject to disclosure, except as specified.
           Requires all UAS to be operated so as to minimize the  


          AB 56 (Quirk)                                          Page 3 of  
            collection of images, footage, or data of persons, places, or  
            things not specified with particularity in the warrant  
            authorizing the use of a UAS, or, if no warrant was obtained,  
            for purposes unrelated to the justification for the operation.
           States that unless authorized by federal law, a person or  
            entity shall not equip or arm a UAS with a weapon or other  
            device that may be carried by, or launched or directed from, a  
            UAS, as specified.]
           Requires a law enforcement agency that operates a UAS to keep  
            a record of the use of that system, to include information on  
            whether a search warrant was sought before the system was  
            used, and, in situation where a warrant was sought, whether  
            the warrant was granted or denied.
           Specifies that a local legislative body may adopt more  
            restrictive policies than those specified in state law on the  
            acquisition, use, or retention of UAS.
           Defines the following terms:
                 "Law enforcement agency" means the Attorney General,  
               each district attorney, and each agency of the state or  
               political subdivision of the state authorized by statute to  
               investigate or prosecute law violators.
                 "Unmanned aircraft system" means an unmanned aircraft  
               and associated elements, including communication links and  
               the components that control the unmanned aircraft that are  
               required for the pilot in command to operate safely and  
               efficiently in the national airspace system. 

          Legislation:  AB 1327 (Gorell) 2014 would have prohibited law  
          enforcement agencies from using UAS, with certain exceptions for  
          law enforcement agencies acting pursuant to a warrant. This bill  
          would have required notice by public agencies intending to  
          deploy UAS. This bill was vetoed by the Governor with the  
          following message:
          I am returning Assembly Bill 1327 without my signature. This  
          bill prohibits law enforcement from using a drone without  
          obtaining a search warrant, except in limited circumstances. 

          There are undoubtedly circumstances where a warrant is  
          appropriate. The bill's exceptions, however, appear to be too  
          narrow and could impose requirements beyond what is required by  


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          either the 4th Amendment or the privacy provisions in the  
          California Constitution. 
          SB 15 (Padilla) 2013 would have required law enforcement  
          agencies to obtain search warrants when using UAS, and would  
          have required that an application for a search warrant specify  
          the intended purpose for which the UAS would be used. This bill  
          failed in the Assembly Committee on Public Safety.

          Comments:  By requiring local law enforcement agencies to comply  
          with additional rules and regulations regarding the use of UAS,  
          this bill imposes a state mandated local program. However, as  
          local law enforcement agencies are not mandated to utilize UAS  
          technology, any costs to local agencies are estimated to be  
          Although state agencies including the DOJ, CHP, and the DFW  
          currently do not utilize UAS, this bill creates significant  
          future cost pressure, as these agencies would potentially incur  
          both one-time and ongoing costs to comply with the provisions of  
          this measure should these agencies opt to utilize UAS technology  
          at some point in the future. 

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