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Lawmakers consider adding drones to trespass law

A drone flies in front of a blurred background of houses.

A Wyoming legislative committee voted to continue working on legislation that would address trespass issues related to the use of drones. The Joint Judiciary Committee is looking at the issue after hearing a number of concerns about drones on private property.

During public testimony, some indicated they’d been harassed by drones while accessing public property. Rock Springs Sen. John Kolb said it’s new technology that can be used to cause harm. He said landowners are concerned the devices have been used to infringe on privacy.

The committee is considering legislation other states have passed, but House Committee Chairman Jared Olsen suggested starting with a simple bill that can be expanded depending on how the drone is used. He proposed some initial language as a starting point.

“Simply entering the airspace above somebody else’s land is a trespass, we’re saying that’s a criminal trespass in the bill, maybe that’s a misdemeanor?” said Olsen. “And maybe your felony occurs when you do these other activities including surveillance, what type of surveillance is it?”

The committee is going to also work on a separate piece of legislation making it a penalty to use a drone around a correctional facility or jail. Corrections officials are concerned that drones could be used to look into the security of a prison or jail, or even deliver contraband. The proposed legislation would also give corrections officials the ability to confiscate the drone, something they say they are currently not allowed to do.

In a separate discussion, lawmakers will consider legislation clarifying that if someone drives on a private road to access public lands that is trespassing. The bill would give Game and Fish officers the ability to enforce such a violation, so that Sheriff’s officers don’t have to drive long distances to investigate the matter.

Bob Beck retired from Wyoming Public Media after serving as News Director of Wyoming Public Radio for 34 years. During his time as News Director WPR has won over 100 national, regional and state news awards.
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