By Joe Wright
As hobby drones continue to proliferate across the United States and commercial applications rise, the rules about drone use remain murky, as do the penalties for downing them if you feel your privacy is being threatened.
So far we have seen a push by the FAA to impose mandatory drone registration that requires owners of any drone weighing more than 250 grams to ID their aircraft and provide personal contact information so that quick action can be taken in the case of violations. However, this is being done mainly to protect government institutions, federal airspace and of course to address the ubiquitous threat of terrorism.
Meanwhile, a range of penalties has been applied to the few individuals who have managed to bring down drones in both public and private space; from jail time in the case of a man who took down a drone with his T-shirt at a California beach, to a 65-year-old Pennsylvania woman who hit her neighbor’s drone with a rock, destroying it – she was forced to pay $600 in damages, but was cleared of “criminal mischief.” A Kentucky man who took more serious action and used a shotgun to blast his neighbor’s drone out of the sky, was arrested, but also was eventually cleared of criminal mischief and first-degree endangerment.
One case that has still been pending is for New Jersey resident, Russell Percenti. He was actually the first ever to be arrested for downing a drone and was indicted by a grand jury; he was facing more than 5 years in jail for his use of a shotgun to take down a drone that hovered near his house. Again, “criminal mischief” was the charge, as well as a weapons offense.
It appears that Percenti’s 2014 case has finally reached a resolution and might have wider precedent-setting implications.
In a short announcement from the Associated Press, Percenti has now admitted to the charge of criminal mischief and will escape his lengthy jail sentence in favor of probation.
Perhaps most troubling, is that Percenti still seems to be asserting that “he was trying to protect his family’s privacy.” However, facing an inordinate length of time for that infraction, he has capitulated and put on the record that it is now an act of criminal mischief to do so.
I certainly don’t wish to impugn the moral compass of Mr. Percenti, as it is the justice system and due process itself where the questions should ultimately lay, but this certainly would seem to open the door to empowering the State against future citizens who will not abide by this type of threat to their person or property. It would be wise to keep a close eye on how future cases are addressed to see if a new trend emerges.
Have you seen low-flying drones out in public where you live, or flying over your private property? Have you read any other stories of people being arrested for shooting down drones in your state? Please leave details in the comment section.
Joe Wright’s articles can be found at ActivistPost.com. This article can be freely shared in part or in full with author attribution and source link.