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Drone Arrests

Drone Law Blog Registration Required

Flying an unmanned aerial system (UAS) – also known as a drone – is not illegal in the state of Florida. It is very possible though to commit a crime that is not aimed at drones while flying one.

These crimes consist of misdemeanors, and even felonies. People sometimes think that they can just avoid a criminal record by pleading “no contest” or accepting probation. If you were charged or cited with a misdemeanor, you should not attempt to resolve it without the assistance of an experienced criminal defense attorney. A felony conviction can have devastating consequences on your life and can reduce chances of finding gainful employment or furthering your education and the assistance of an attorney is even more important.

If you don’t do things right, you might get convicted of the crime and face very serious collateral consequences. It is important to consult with an attorney – not only who has a proven track record in criminal defense – but who also understands the rights of drone pilots under Florida law and FAA regulations.

Tallahassee Drone Defense Attorney

If you or someone you know has been charged with an infraction using a drone, it is imperative to hire an experienced attorney who can help reduce your charges or seek a minimal sentence. To potentially avoid very harsh punishments, contact the attorneys at the Pumphrey Law at (850) 681-7777 for a free consultation regarding your alleged offense.

Drone Use

The Pumphrey Law has a great deal of experience representing Florida residents accused of many different types of misdemeanor and felony offenses.

Drone laws are still in their formative stages in Florida, but nationwide people have already been arrested for crimes while flying a drone, or in reaction to someone else flying one. The FAA estimated that there were 2.5 million drones in the sky, set to almost double by the conclusion of 2017. These estimates are set to skyrocket to 7 million by the end of the decade.[1] As more and more UASs take to the skies, more and more people are going to be arrested for pushing the boundaries.

If you’re going to fly a drone, you always need to make sure that you’re following FAA rules, whether you’re flying for fun, or if you’re using it to make money. This doesn’t necessarily mean that you’re going to be ok under Florida Law though.

Examples of Drone Infractions in Florida

Florida drone laws include only one specific crime for using a drone, interference with a critical infrastructure facility[2]:

(4) PROTECTION OF CRITICAL INFRASTRUCTURE FACILITIES. —

(a) A person may not knowingly or willfully:

1. Operate a drone over a critical infrastructure facility;

2. Allow a drone to make contact with a critical infrastructure facility, including any person or object on the premises of or within the facility; or

3. Allow a drone to come within a distance of a critical infrastructure facility that is close enough to interfere with the operations of or cause a disturbance to the facility.

The truth is, that many crimes can be committed with a drone though:

  • Drug Trafficking – Moving drugs via drone is illegal, and a conviction is at least a first-degree felony according to Florida Statutes § 893.135.
  • Stalking or Aggravated Stalking – Using a drone to stalk someone is exactly the same as stalking without a drone, and could be anywhere from a misdemeanor in the first degree to a felony in the third degree according to Florida Statutes § 784.048.
  • Assault – Threatening to hit someone with a drone could be considered assault, a misdemeanor in the second degree according to Florida Statutes § 784.011. If the court chooses to allow a drone to be considered a “deadly weapon,” this could even rise to aggravated assault, a felony in the third degree according to Florida Statutes § 784.021.
  • Battery – Hitting someone with a drone would likely be battery, a misdemeanor in the first degree, or felony in the third degree after the first offense, according to Florida Statutes § 784.03.
  • Destruction of Aircraft/Endangering the Safety of Pilot – Drone users aren’t the only ones who can get arrested while interacting with a drone. Damaging or destroying a UAS is a federal crime according the FAA because UASs are considered aircraft. Further, it is a crime to attack “anyone engaged in the authorized operation of such aircraft.” The FAA believes this applies to UAS pilots. Breaking either of these laws is a federal crime, and a conviction means a fine, up to 20 years in federal prison, or both, according to 18 U.S.C. § 32.

Aside from drone crimes, there are also various civil infractions that drone pilots face.

Pumphrey Law | Tallahassee Drone Defense Lawyers

If you have been charged with a crime while using a drone in Florida, contact the attorneys at the Pumphrey Law to discuss the facts of your particular situation. There may be defenses to your charge, and finding an attorney who will aggressively fight on your behalf is your best option to avoid severe punishment.

The attorneys at the Pumphrey Law are experienced in criminal defense, and may be able to reduce or alleviate your charges completely. Contact us at (850) 681-7777 for a consultation about your alleged offense.

This article was last updated November 11, 2017.

[1] Federal Aviation Administration, FAA Aerospace Forecast: Fiscal Years 2016-2036 31 (2016), https://www.faa.gov/data_research/aviation/aerospace_forecasts/media/FY2016-36_FAA_Aerospace_Forecast.pdf.

[2] Fla. Stat. § 330.41 (2)(a) (“‘Critical infrastructure facility’ means any of the following, if completely enclosed by a fence or other physical barrier that is obviously designed to exclude intruders, or if clearly marked with a sign or signs which indicate that entry is forbidden and which are posted on the property in a manner reasonably likely to come to the attention of intruders”).

(Note: We have been contacted by readers lately asking for clarification on the registration requirement. The registration requirement is now MANDATORY for all UAS operators, both hobby and commercial. For some background on why there is a question, check out the Taylor decision from this summer, which ruled that the FAA cannot regulate model aircraft at all. On December 12, 2017, the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2018 became law*. This bill reinstated the drone/UAS registration requirement that was struck down in Taylor when flying as a model aircraft. Pumphrey Law has always recommended registration, believing it is better safe than sorry. Now hobbyists can be directly fined by the FAA for failing to register. The registration can be found here. More information regarding this change can be found here.

 

* Sect. 1092. COLLABORATION BETWEEN FEDERAL AVIATION ADMINISTRATION AND DEPARTMENT OF DEFENSE ON UNMANNED AIRCRAFT SYSTEMS.

 

“(d) Restoration Of Rules For Registration And Marking Of Unmanned Aircraft.—The rules adopted by the Administrator of the Federal Aviation Administration in the matter of registration and marking requirements for small unmanned aircraft (FAA-2015-7396; published on December 16, 2015) that were vacated by the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit in Taylor v. Huerta (No. 15-1495; decided on May 19, 2017) shall be restored to effect on the date of enactment of this Act.”)