Drone-privacy bill heads to governor

During the past three months, small remote-controlled aerial vehicles known as drones have caused widespread concerns nationwide.

That’s what prompted a state lawmaker representing southwest Bartholomew County to propose penalties for using a drone’s visual and audio equipment to violate a person’s privacy.

After being overwhelmingly approved Tuesday by the Indiana Senate, the measure authored by Sen. Eric Koch, R-Bedford, has been sent to the desk of Gov. Eric Holcomb.

If Holcomb signs the bill, the penalties would take effect July 1.

Senate Bill 299 creates four new misdemeanor offenses to address concerns on voyeurism, harassment and public safety, according to a news release from Koch’s office.

Under the measure, people who use a drone to commit those offenses will be charged with a Class A misdemeanor, which carries up to one year in jail and a maximum $5,000 fine.

However, if an individual such as a sex offender has a prior conviction for the same crime, the charge would increase to a Level 6 felony. Such a conviction would mean a maximum 2½ years of confinement, with fines of up to $10,000.

In Washington, concerns arose in early February after the circulation of a federal report warning that stalking, harassment, voyeurism and wiretapping may all be committed through the operation of a drone.

Later that month, there was widespread media coverage of a Utah couple accused of using a drone to secretly film people in their bedrooms and bathrooms.

Koch’s 44th District, which mainly represents Lawrence and Jackson counties, also includes areas of Bartholomew, Brown and Monroe counties.

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Mark Webber is a reporter for The Republic. He can be reached at mwebber@therepublic.com or 812-379-5636.