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April 15, 2015

Richmond, VA – The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Virginia today commended the General Assembly’s vote to reject Governor McAuliffe’s amendments to bi-partisan privacy legislation that unanimously passed during the 2015 General Assembly Session. The bills, HB 2125 (Cline R Rockbridge) and SB 1301 (McEachin D Richmond), would require a search warrant for drone use by law or regulatory enforcement agencies.

“While the framers may not have envisioned a drone, the principals behind our privacy protections are clear – the government should not be spying on law-abiding Americans,” said ACLU of Virginia Executive Director Claire Guthrie Gastañaga. “By rejecting the Governor’s amendments, the General Assembly has made clear it wants to provide greater protection of Virginians' privacy than the antiquated minimum standards set in the federal Constitution. They rejected arguments by prosecutors and police that privacy and security can't go hand in hand.”

The Governor’s amendments, which the legislature rejected today, would have gutted the statutory warrant requirements in these bills regulating drone use by law and regulatory enforcement agencies.

The legislation will now go to the Governor where he can sign the bills, let them go into effect without his signature, or veto the legislation.

“We urge the Governor to see through the climate of fear created by law enforcement lobbyists and sign the legislation as it passed without his amendments,” said Gastañaga.  “Nothing in the legislation limits the ability of law enforcement to deploy a drone to keep us safe.  Under the legislation, law enforcement can use a drone to track a person, they just need to get a warrant first – just like they would if they want to search your house.  And, the warrant requirement doesn’t apply to emergency situations and many other non-law enforcement uses,” concluded Gastañaga.