BILL ANALYSIS                                                                                                                                                                                                    



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          Date of Hearing:  April 13, 2016


                        ASSEMBLY COMMITTEE ON APPROPRIATIONS


                               Lorena Gonzalez, Chair


          AB  
          1680 (Rodriguez) - As Introduced January 19, 2016


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          Urgency:  No  State Mandated Local Program:  YesReimbursable:   
          No


          SUMMARY:


          This bill, for purposes of existing law which makes it a  
          misdemeanor for a person to go to, or stop at, the scene of an  
          emergency and impede police officers, firefighters, emergency  








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          medical, or other emergency personnel, or military personnel in  
          the performance of their emergency duties, specifies a person  
          includes a person who operates or uses an unmanned aerial  
          vehicle, remote piloted aircraft, or drone.
          
          FISCAL EFFECT:


          Minor nonreimbursable costs to cities and counties for  
          enforcement, offset to some extent by fine revenues.


          COMMENTS:


          1)Background.  Under current law, a person who goes to the scene  
            of an emergency, as defined, or stops at the scene of an  
            emergency, for the purpose of viewing the scene or the  
            activities of police officers, firefighters, emergency  
            medical, or other emergency personnel, or military personnel  
            coping with the emergency in the course of their duties,  
            unless it is part of the duties of that person's employment to  
            view that scene or activities, and thereby impedes police  
            officers, firefighters, emergency medical, or other emergency  
            personnel or military personnel, in the performance of their  
            duties in coping with the emergency, is guilty of a  
            misdemeanor.


            The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) uses the term  
            "unmanned aircraft systems" (UAS) to refer to vehicles  
            commonly known as drones. UAS come in a variety of shapes and  
            sizes and serve diverse purposes.  Although not always thought  
            of when the word "drone" is used, hobby-size airplanes and  
            helicopters that are equipped with digital cameras are  
            becoming more and more affordable for the average consumer.   
            This hobby aircraft may be used for pure novelty, surveying  
            one's yard, or even checking to see the condition of a roof.   
            If a drone meets the definition of "model aircraft," and  








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            operates within specified parameters, the operator does not  
            need specific authorization from the FAA to fly it.


          2)Purpose.  According to the author, "Recently in California a  
            pilot flying a helicopter with seven firefighters on board who  
            were battling a blaze threatening nearby homes, saw a  
            four-rotor drone only 10 feet from his windshield.  This  
            forced him to make a hard left to avoid a collision about 500  
            feet above ground.  In another incident, the sighting of five  
            drones in the area of a wildfire that closed Interstate 15 in  
            Southern California and destroyed numerous vehicles, grounded  
            air tanker crews for 20 minutes as flames spread. The  
            unregulated and irresponsible use of drones is placing  
            Californians, our firefighters and emergency response  
            personnel in increasing danger.  

          "The existing Penal Code section dealing with interfering with  
            police, fire and EMTs does not specifically state that the  
            crime can be committed by using a drone.  By clarifying  
            existing law, police, fire and EMTs will be able to tell drone  
            operators that the use of an unmanned aircraft that interferes  
            with their official activities is a crime and that they must  
            discontinue their use or face being charged."  

          3)Support.  According to Los Angeles Professional Peace Officers  
            Association, " Over the past few years, the popularity of  
            drones has resulted in an increase of these devices in the  
            sky; often times at accident sites, forest fires, crowded  
            public events and other locations that have proven problematic  
            for law enforcement and emergency response.  There have been  
            examples where public safety crews have had to avoid drones in  
            mid-air responses and divert action plans to alternative sites  
            to prevent endangering public safety officers and the public.

          "AB 1680 would address this currently unregulated activity and  
            would clarify that these problematic incidents will be  
            classified as misdemeanors; mirroring existing penalties for  
            interfering with law enforcement in any other manner.  This  








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            appropriate action will likely result in a reduction of these  
            dangerous, unnecessary encounters between drones and law  
            enforcement officers responding to a crisis."

          4)Prior Legislation.  The following three bills, of the current  
            legislative session, were vetoed by Governor Brown who  
            expressed concern over the creation of new crimes:  

             a)   SB 168 (Gaines) would have made it a misdemeanor operate  
               a UAS, in a manner that prevents or delays the  
               extinguishment of a fire, or in any way interferes with the  
               efforts of firefighters to control, contain, or extinguish  
               a fire.  

             b)   SB 271 (Gaines) would have made it an infraction to  
               knowingly and intentionally operate an UAS on the grounds  
               of, or less than 350 feet above ground level within the  
               airspace overlaying, a public school providing instruction  
               in kindergarten or grades 1 to 12, inclusive, during school  
               hours and without the written permission of the school  
               principal or higher authority, or his or her designee, or  
               equivalent school authority.  

             c)   SB 170 (Gaines) would have created a felony crime for  
               the use of a UAS to deliver contraband into a prison or  
               county jail and creates a misdemeanor crime for the use of  
               UAS over a prison or capture images of a prison.  

          


          Analysis Prepared by:Pedro Reyes / APPR. / (916)  
          319-2081














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