House eyes drone ban over prisons

Posted March 7

Drones top Christmas lists for many adults

— State House lawmakers are moving ahead with a proposal to make it crime to fly a drone over a prison or jail property.

The measure passed the House Transportation Committee on Tuesday morning after a brief debate. Backers say they're concerned drones are being used to deliver contraband, like cellphones, or weapons to incarcerated inmates.

House Bill 128 would make it a felony to fly a drone within 500 horizontal feet or 200 vertical feet of the property line of any local, state or federal prison, jail or detention center for the purpose of delivering a weapon or contraband.

Even an accidental fly-by could land a pilot in court. Flying a drone beyond the limits for any other purpose – even unintentionally – would be a Class 1 misdemeanor with a fine of $500.

Offending drones would be confiscated by the state.

Sponsor Rep. Allen McNeill, R-Randolph, told the committee, "There's been two incidences in North Carolina," but didn't offer further details.

Some lawmakers expressed concern that unwary pilots could unknowingly cross over those property lines, which usually stretch well beyond visible structures or fencing.

"My guess is," replied co-sponsor and committee Chairman Rep. John Torbett, R-Gaston, "once this information gets out, if you’re flying a drone, you won’t be flying it around any type of detention center."

The bill passed on a voice vote and goes next to the House Judiciary 2 Committee.


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