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What drone operators should know before flying

On Behalf of | Apr 24, 2024 | Federal Criminal Defense, State Criminal Defense

Although flying Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs) seem to provide a sense of freedom, drone pilots must remember to stick within the set legal boundaries. The remarkable improvements in drone technology have made it a vital tool for many industries but also for perpetrating crimes. It is, therefore, critical to be informed of the relevant laws before operating this aircraft.

Potential penalties for drone misuse

Drones can access locations and heights that people often cannot. That is also why they have proved useful for criminal activities such as illegal monitoring, smuggling and attacks. To avoid penalties, hobbyists and professionals must be familiar with California’s no-fly zones and how to operate drones legally.

Otherwise, some possible charges for drone misuse are:

  • Unregistered drone: You must provide proof of ownership and register with the Federal Aviation Administration before taking your first flight. Failing to do so may result in civil sanctions of $27,500 or criminal charges punishable by three years of imprisonment or fines of up to $250,000.
  • Eavesdropping: Recording or amplifying private conversations can result in misdemeanor or felony charges, with penalties ranging from one year in jail to three years in prison and a $2,500 fine.
  • Spying or invading another’s privacy: Capturing images or viewing areas where the occupant expects privacy can lead to six months of jail time and a $1,000 fine.
  • Trespassing: Entering private property or airspace without consent may result in up to one year in jail and a $2,500 fine.

In addition to criminal charges, civil liabilities can be steep. For instance, trespassing could cost you triple the damages caused, plus fines of $3,000 to $5,000.

The complex and constantly changing laws can make flying a drone in California tricky. As a drone operator, staying on top of these regulations is crucial. If you are arrested or charged for using an unmanned aircraft, consider contacting a criminal defense attorney immediately to safeguard your rights.