Can You Use A Drone For Surveillance Investigation?

As licensed private investigative agencies, we often receive inquiries from clients seeking information about another party—details ranging from their whereabouts and habits to transactions and even intentions. The question that frequently arises is whether it’s legal to conduct surveillance on an individual using drones or GPS tracking. In this blog post, we’ll explore the legal implications of drone surveillance, using the State of Florida as an example to highlight relevant laws and considerations.

Understanding the Legal Framework: Florida’s Perspective

In the State of Florida, drone surveillance is governed by Statute 934.5, known as the Freedom from Unwarranted Surveillance Act. This statute outlines the limitations and regulations surrounding the use of drones for surveillance purposes. The key takeaways can help shed light on the legality of such practices.

Prohibited Actions:

According to Section B of the statute, a person or political subdivision is prohibited from using a drone to record an image of privately owned real property or an individual with the intent to conduct surveillance on that person or property. This establishes a clear boundary on the use of drones for privacy invasion.

Expectation of Privacy:

The statute also asserts that a person is presumed to have a reasonable expectation of privacy on their privately owned real property if they are not observable by people at ground level. This underscores the importance of respecting privacy rights, especially in secluded or private spaces.

Exceptions and Limitations:

While the statute provides exceptions to the prohibition, it explicitly states that these exceptions do not apply to professions involving obtaining information about an individual’s identity, habits, conduct, movements, whereabouts, affiliations, associations, transactions, reputation, or character. This includes licensed investigators, private investigators, and attorneys.

Legal Implications and Vicarious Liability

It’s crucial to recognize that in most states, the use of drones for surveillance, especially in the context of investigations, is typically not permissible. Engaging in such activities may lead to legal consequences for both the person conducting the surveillance and those who hire them.

Vicarious Liability:

Vicarious liability is an important aspect to consider. If an investigator or a hired professional conducts illegal surveillance using a drone, both the individual performing the activity and those who employed them could be held liable. This legal principle emphasizes the responsibility of employers for the actions of their agents.

Alternatives and Cautionary Measures

While drones may seem like a convenient tool for gathering intelligence, their use leaves a trail of records, including the identity and location of the owner. As an alternative, it’s crucial to explore legal and ethical means of obtaining information. Additionally, individuals should ensure that investigators they hire adhere to all relevant laws to avoid potential legal repercussions.

Ethical Investigations in a Digital Age

In the realm of private investigations, navigating the legal landscape is essential to maintain ethical standards and avoid legal troubles. Whether it’s drone surveillance or other methods such as GPS tracking, understanding the laws and ensuring compliance is paramount. Clients and investigators alike must work together to gather information within the bounds of the law, protecting the rights and privacy of all parties involved.

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