Miami Drone Law Attorney
One of the newest hobbies becoming popular in Florida and across the country is flying remote-controlled drones. While the hobby may seem like a modern-day version of flying model airplanes or helicopters, the reality is that the new technology has enabled a troubling new trend of exposing its hobbyists to criminal liability under drone law.
If you are a drone enthusiast and have been charged with a crime related to your use of a drone, contact our office today. If you are facing a charge, it is essential to work with a knowledgeable Miami criminal defense attorney with a passion for defending your rights. At Valiente, Carollo and McElligottt PLLC, our founding attorney, Antonio F. Valiente, has nearly 10 years of experience and offers a zealous approach to criminal matters, including drones. We take the time to understand your unique circumstances in order to provide the dedicated, personalized legal assistance you need.
Voyeurism Charges for Drone Use
Florida Statute 810.14 makes it illegal to film another person in their home or apartment, without their consent. Often called a “peeping tom” law, it protects unaware individuals from being recorded or having their privacy invaded without their knowledge or consent.
Because many drones have built-in cameras, or can easily be outfitted with cameras for a small cost and almost no work, flying your drone in and around your neighborhood could expose you to criminal charges. You may, inadvertently or not, record people in their homes or in their yards. If police are involved, you may be charged with a crime.
The penalty for a first offense is a first-degree misdemeanor and carries a maximum penalty of 1 year of jail and a $1,000 fine. However, if you have previously been convicted of a voyeurism charge, the next charge is a third-degree felony and carries a maximum penalty of 5 years in prison and a $5,000 fine.
The key here is that you must have “indecent” intent to be guilty of this crime. The attorneys at Valiente, Carollo, and McElligott PLLC can help defend you against these charges by showing that your intent was simply to enjoy a flight around the neighborhood. By showing that your intent was innocent, we can help you beat the charges against you.
Freedom From Unwanted Surveillance Act
On July 1, 2015, Florida passed a law, the Freedom from Unwarranted Surveillance Act, to limit the use of drones. Florida Statute §934.50 states that 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 the law, 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.”
Just like with the voyeurism law, your intent matters. A drone operator must intend to conduct surveillance on these individuals and properties, in violation of a person’s reasonable expectation of privacy. A key difference between the two laws is the different intent required under the Freedom from Unwanted Surveillance Act. Your intent needs only to be to conduct surveillance of another person. You do not need an indecent intent to violate this law.
But what is a reasonable expectation of privacy? The law 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.” This will likely include viewing into a fenced backyard, the upstairs windows of any home, and even ground-level windows, not seen from the front of the house.
You may also wonder what “surveillance” means. The law makes that part clear, too. It says that 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.” It can even apply to the property itself, not just people. If you capture an image of the 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 you have conducted “surveillance.”
There is one more difference between the voyeurism law and the surveillance law. The voyeurism law is a criminal law that carries possible jail time and a criminal record. The surveillance law has no criminal penalties but exposes you to a civil lawsuit and possible financial penalties and even includes attorney fees.
Contact Our Miami Drone Law Attorney
At Valiente, Carollo, and McElligott PLLC, we proudly represent drone operators. If you are facing criminal charges or a lawsuit because of your drone activities, you will need a lawyer that understands the law pertaining to drones and will fight for you in court.
Valiente, Carollo, and McElligott PLLC believes that clients and lawyers should work together as a team. He prides himself on being able to explain the legal process, guide you and your case to a successful outcome and keep you informed of the developments in your case as they occur. Unlike other larger firms, at Valiente, Carollo, and McElligott PLLC, Antonio Valiente will handle your case from start to finish. Aggressive and tough, Antonio will fight for your rights and leave no stone unturned in defending your case. If you have been charged with a crime as a drone operator, please contact our office to learn how we can best help you fight your charges. Don’t wait until the prosecutor has already built the case against you. Get started today!
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