Obstructing first responders by flying a drone into or near an emergency situation in Colorado — such as a wildfire — could leave you facing a hefty fine or even jail time under a measure making its way through the state legislature.
House Bill 1314 passed through the Senate Judiciary Committee on Wednesday with unanimous, bipartisan support.
Emergency responders in recent years have been trying to educate the public about the dangers of flying drones around areas where they are operating, especially into or near wildfires, where there can be a host of aircraft battling a blaze. Firefighting planes and helicopters have been grounded at times because of rogue drones operated by the public.
Even a small unmanned aerial vehicle can take down a much larger helicopter or plane.
The legislation would make it a Class 2 misdemeanor to operate a drone in a way that obstructs a police officer, firefighter, emergency medical service provider or rescue team. Anyone convicted of the proposed crime could face up to a year in jail or up to a $1,000 fine, or both.
First responders testified in support of the legislation Wednesday, including Denver police Cmdr. Ron Saunier, who said authorities don’t have laws to keep people from taking their drones to the skies when and where they shouldn’t be.
“It gives us the tools we need to address these issues,” he said of the measure.
Saunier mentioned instances in which drones have created problems over events at Denver’s Civic Center Park or over Coors Field in Lower Downtown.
“The last couple incidents we had at Coors Field was not someone who was knowingly doing it,” he said.
The bill now heads to the full Senate. It passed the Colorado House of Representatives unanimously.
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