On July 1, 2015, Florida’s “Freedom from Unwarranted Surveillance Act” went into effect. Under this Act, pursuant to Florida Statute §934.50, an operator of a drone may be penalized for recording images of certain individuals or properties. Unfortunately, this means that a drone operator may be sued for flying his/her drone over the property of another.
Under §934.50(3)(b), a person may not use a drone to “record an image of privately owned real property or of the owner, tenant, occupant, invitee, or licensee.” A drone operator, however, must intend to conduct surveillance on these individuals and properties, in violation of a person’s reasonable expectation of privacy. To that end, the Act states that a person has a reasonable expectation of privacy when he/she is “not observable by persons located at ground level in a place where they have a legal right to be, regardless of whether he or she is observable form the air with the use of a drone.”
By now, the prudent drone operator probably wonders how the Act defines the term “surveillance.” Under §934.50(2)(e)1, if a drone operator captures an image of a person that depicts with “sufficient visual clarity to be able to obtain information about their identity, habits, conduct, movements, or whereabouts,” then the Act considers that image “surveillance.” Likewise, under §934.50(2)(e)2, if the drone operator captures an image of property that illustrates the property’s “physical improvements with sufficient visual clarity to be able to determine unique identifying features or its occupancy by one or more persons,” then the Act considers that image “surveillance.”
If a drone operator in Florida violates the “Freedom from Unwarranted Surveillance Act,” he/she could be subject to a lawsuit. For example, the law provides under §934.50(5)(b) that an aggrieved party can collect compensatory damages and injunctive relief against a drone operator who violates the Act. In addition, under §934.50(5)(c), an aggrieved party may request punitive damages for violation of the Act. There is a silver lining for drone operators: the prevailing party is entitled to attorney fees. In other words, if a drone operator prevails, he/she would be entitled to have the plaintiff pay his/her attorney fees.
The Ison Law Firm proudly represents drone operators. If someone is suing you because of your drone activities, you will need a lawyer that understands both the law pertaining to drones and how drones work. Give the drone lawyer at The Ison Law Firm a call today.