This new law went into effect July 1. It prohibits a person, state agency or political subdivision from using a drone to capture the image of a privately owned property or anyone on the property with the intent to conduct surveillance. Those that wish to use drone technology in this manner must have written consent from people on the property.
This new law is somewhat similar to that sponsored by U.S. Senator Rand Paul in 2013 to regulate government’s invasion of privacy by use of drones. That bill prohibits a person or entity acting under the authority of (or funded in whole or in part by) the federal government from using a drone to gather evidence or other information pertaining to criminal conduct or conduct in violation of a statute or regulation except to the extent authorized in a warrant satisfying the requirements of the Fourth Amendment to the Constitution.
The Florida law goes further by regulating private individuals or entities. A portion of the law reads:
(b) A person, a state agency, or a political subdivision … may not use a drone equipped with an imaging device to record an image of privately owned real property or of the owner, tenant, occupant, invitee, or licensee of such property with the intent to conduct surveillance on the individual or property captured in the image in violation of such person’s reasonable expectation of privacy without his or her written consent. For purposes of this section, a person is presumed to have a reasonable expectation of privacy on his or her privately owned real property if he or 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 from the air with the use of a drone.
This section does not prohibit the use of a drone:
By a person or an entity engaged in a business or profession licensed by the state, or by an agent, employee, or contractor thereof, if the drone is used only to perform reasonable tasks within the scope of practice or activities permitted under such person’s or entity’s license. However, this exception does not apply to a profession in which the licensee’s authorized scope of practice includes obtaining information about the identity, habits, conduct, movements, whereabouts, affiliations, associations, transactions, reputation, or character of any society, person, or group of persons.
Hmmm…. Does this exception apply to CAMs? Will a CAM be permitted to use a drone to determine violations on balconies or in backyards? I’ve spoken to many property managers (including CAMs) that intended to start conducting property inspections partially by drone. You may want to hold off doing so until we receive clarification of the law. That goes for board members as well.
There are significant ramifications for violations of this law. First, the offended person may obtain an injunction to prohibit future unlawful use of the drone and they are entitled to an award of attorney’s fees if they prevail. The offended person may also seek an award of punitive damages (not covered by insurance).
Interesting, the law specifically prohibits use of any video or audio obtained in violation in any criminal prosecution, but does not specifically mention use in civil cases.
Our next Community Update will feature an article regarding drones – don’t miss it.