JEFFERSON CITY — Lawmakers say drones could be used to facilitate escapes or drop controlled substances and weapons into Missouri’s correctional facilities.
That’s why the state House of Representatives gave initial approval to a bill on Monday that would make it illegal for people to fly drones near correctional facilities. This includes state prisons, county and municipal jails and private jails.
Violations of the proposed legislation range from a class A misdemeanor to a class D felony, depending on the purpose of the drone.
If a drone is knowingly flown near a correctional center, it’s considered a misdemeanor. However, if a drone is flown with the purpose of delivering weapons, facilitating an escape or delivering a controlled substance, the drone’s pilot could be guilty of a felony.
Rep. Mike Henderson, R-Bonne Terre, sponsored the bill because of a recommendation from the Missouri Department of Corrections.
Henderson said the main concern with drones flying over correctional facilities is that they can transfer drugs, razor blades and cellphones, all of which become safety concerns for employees of the correctional facilities and inmates alike.
“It’s a safety problem to me, for everyone involved,” Henderson said.
One lawmaker asked Henderson if that has actually occurred.
Henderson said his concern with drones transporting items into correctional facilities is based on information he received from the corrections department. He said officials told him there were 11 known “incursions” over the department’s airspace since 2016.
The legislation won’t punish people who unknowingly fly drones into the airspace of correctional facilities or employees who use drones.
“So, if we had a 14-year-old child, got off kilter with his drone, got to a prison, we’re not going to charge him with a misdemeanor, ’cause he didn’t knowingly do that,” Henderson said. “But if we have an adult, maybe you who is flying one over there, and we know he’s doing it on purpose and maybe he’s even got something on the drone that he’s not supposed to — that’s when this bill is going to kick in.”
The bill isn’t meant to be anti-drone, Henderson said. The goal is focused on safety and figuring out regulation for relatively new technology.
Powered by WPeMatico