Assembly Approves Bill To Criminalize Drone Operators Interfering With First Responders

For immediate release:

(SACRAMENTO) - Assembly Bill 1680  establishes a misdemeanor against drone operators whose aircraft interferes with or impedes the response time of emergency personnel during disaster situations. The bill, authored by Assemblymember Freddie Rodriguez (D-Pomona), flew off the Assembly floor today on a 78-0 vote.

“As the popularity of commercialized drones increases, so does the danger they pose during times of emergency,” said Rodriguez. “Interfering with first responders in any way hinders operations and puts the safety of the public at risk. During these critical situations we cannot afford added complications.”

Existing law makes interfering with the duties of a police officer, firefighter or emergency medical services provider a misdemeanor punishable by 6 months in jail and/or a $1,000 fine. AB 1680 clarifies that you don’t have to be at the scene of the emergency when flying a drone in a way that interferes with the duty of an emergency responder.

Last year, several high profile incidents emphasized the dangers of irresponsible drone use. In July 2015, the sighting of five drones in the area of a wildfire that closed Interstate 15 in Southern California and destroyed numerous vehicles, grounded firefighting aircraft for 20 minutes. Another firefighting helicopter carrying 7 firefighters in Northern California had to take sudden evasive action and narrowly avoided a collision with a drone  that was flying 10 feet from his windshield.

The legislation now moves to the Senate for consideration.