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Ohio Lawmakers Move to Outlaw Certain Uses of Drones

December 3, 2015 | Written by Dan Margolis

When a new technology hits the marketplace, the law may find itself behind the times. An outdated law may not be able to deal with a new device’s uses, and potential for causing harm.

Drones, those remote-controlled miniature helicopters, are now available for purchase in Ohio. Perhaps some of our readers own one, or have seen a drone gliding through their neighborhood. The devices are somewhat controversial, especially since they generally are equipped with a camera.

Two Ohio lawmakers have responded to concerns about misuses of drones by individually introducing bills criminalizing misuse. In May, State Rep. John Barnes of Cleveland introduced a bill that would make flying a drone near an airport a felony punishable by up to 11 years in prison and a $10,000 fine.

More recently, Rep. Bob Cupp of Lima has added his own bill. Based on a description of Cupp’s bill in Dayton Business Journal, it is much broader than Barnes’ bill, but also much more vague. It would create a new crime called “engaging in criminal activity through use of a drone.” As currently written, Cupp’s bill would make this crime a felony of unspecified severity, meaning a drone operator deemed to have “engaged in criminal activity” could be sent to prison for at least a year.

In testifying on his bill before the House Judiciary Committee recently, Cupp said that drones can “harm others in a multitude of ways.” If he went into greater detail about that multitude, he was not so quoted by Business Journal.

Current and potential drone owners in Ohio will certainly want to know how any changes in the law will affect their rights and duties. If they are ever arrested and charged with a drone-related crime, they will need a defense attorney familiar with this new and changing aspect of the law to help them.

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