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Criminal Law and Procedure

State Net Criminal Law Update: Washington Governor Inslee Shoots Down Drone Bill

INSLEE SHOOTS DOWN WA DRONE BILL: Saying it did not go far enough to protect citizens' privacy, Washington Gov. Jay Inslee (D) vetoed a measure last week (HB 2789) [enhanced version available to subscribers], that would have imposed strict limits on the use of drone aircraft in the Evergreen State. Inslee said he will instead bar state agencies under his control from buying or using the unmanned aircraft for the next 15 months, which he said would give lawmakers the time to produce a more well thought out policy. He also announced plans to create a task force "to better examine these complex issues and develop a fully vetted bill for the 2015 legislative session."

Under the measure, law enforcement agencies would have been required to obtain search warrants before using drones in their investigations and state agencies would have needed legislative approval to buy or use the aircraft.

The veto came as a surprise to lawmakers who overwhelmingly endorsed the measure in both houses.

"When you have emerging technologies, you do your best work and try to address the concerns," Sen. Johan Braun (R) told the Tacoma News Tribune. "A lot of work went into this. I hate to see us go back clear to zero, but it looks like that's what we're doing."

The veto also drew criticism from the American Civil Liberties Union of Washington's executive director Kathleen Taylor, who in a statement called it "a missed opportunity to uphold Washington's strong tradition of privacy, and protect all Washingtonians from government surveillance." ACLU-WA lobbyist Shankar Narayan also contended that the moratorium would do nothing to prevent local governments from obtaining and using drones on their own, without any regulation or oversight from the state.

"We are now going to have another period of time where we have the Wild West, where we have no restrictions," he said.

But in a statement Inslee countered with his belief that police and local governments were "as concerned as I am about ensuring our citizens' rights are not violated," noting he has asked them to honor his moratorium as well. He added that, as written, the bill contained "conflicting provisions on disclosure and destruction of personal information" that "could lead to shielding government uses of this technology from public disclosure."

Sen. Mike Padden (R), who helped shepherd the bill through the Senate, said he doubts lawmakers will override the veto in spite of the bill passing with huge majorities in each chamber. Washington lawmakers have not overridden a gubernatorial veto since 1998.

"Probably the most likely thing is the Legislature will work on it again in 2015," he said. (TACOMA NEWS-TRIBUNE, SEATTLE TIMES, WASHINGTON GOVERNOR'S OFFICE, ACLU OF WASHINGTON, SPOKESMNAN-REVIEW [SPOKANE])

CRIME & PUNISHMENT: The MARYLAND Senate gives final approval to SB 364, legislation that would decriminalize possession of less than 10 grams of marijuana. It moves to Gov. Martin O'Malley (D), who is expected to sign it into law (HUFFINGTON POST). • Also in MARYLAND, the House gives final approval to HB 43, so-called "revenge porn" legislation that would make it a crime punishable by up to two years in jail to post nude or sexually explicit photos or video of someone on the Internet without their permission. It also moves to Gov. O'Malley for review (STATE NET, WASHINGTON POST). • The IOWA House approves SF 2310, which would make it a misdemeanor for parents to allow minors under age 18 to drink alcohol on property they own or lease. Violators would face a $200 fine. It returns to the Senate (DES MOINES REGISTER). • The TENNESSEE House approves HB 1574, a bill that would lower the maximum amount of pseudoephedrine that can be bought without a prescription to 48 tablets a month and 240 tablets a year. Pseudoephedrine is often used to make illegal methamphetamine. It moves to the Senate (STATE NET, TENNESSEAN [NASHVILLE]).

GOVERNORS IN BRIEF: NEW YORK Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) named a new commission to look at whether teenagers should be tried in adult courts in the Empire State. Cuomo called for such reform in his State of the State address in January. The commission members include prison reform advocates, the head of children's programs, district attorneys, judges and police chiefs (NORTH COUNTRY PUBLIC RADIO [CANTON]).

POTPOURRI: The SOUTH CAROLINA Senate approves legislation that would make it a misdemeanor to for someone to refuse to leave a library if asked by a library's manager or director, or to return to the library after being warned in writing to stay away. It moves to the House (STATE [COLUMBIA]). • MARYLAND Gov. Martin O'Malley (D) signs HB 73, legislation that overturns a law that held owners of pit bulls to a different civil liability standard than owners of other dog breeds (CAPITAL NEWS SERVICE [MARYLAND], MARYLAND GOVERNOR'S OFFICE, STATE NET).

— Compiled by RICH EHISEN

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