One of the issues raised during this past year’s Presidential election is the issue of the right American citizens have to be free from invasions of their privacy. While it’s unclear at the time of this writing if the Trump administration will be friendlier to the Constitution on this issue (i.e. leaving Americans alone), one thing seems clear, some of the courts are beginning to uphold the Constitution when people defend themselves from being spied on.
A Kentucky man, William Meredith, won court a cases in which he was charged with criminal mischief and endangerment and also a lawsuit when he shot down a drone flying over his property with a shotgun. That’s right. First the government tried pin criminal charges on him, and, then, when that didn’t succeed, the owner of the drone, David Boggs, tried to sue Meredith for the destruction of the drone. Annabelle Bamforth writes,
The criminal charges were dismissed by Judge Rebecca Ward in Bullitt County District Court, citing recollections from witnesses who said that the drone was flying under the tree line. Ward also said that Meredith was within his rights to shoot down the drone.
The most recent court case ruling [in Bogg’s civil suit against Meredith] in Meredith’s favor does not define boundaries of airspace; Senior US District Judge Thomas B. Russell simply granted Meredith’s motion to dismiss the case and summarized that the clarification Boggs is seeking [about whether drones should be classified as aircraft] cannot be issued in a federal court. Russell wrote that ‘even if Boggs is correct that his unmanned aircraft is subject to federal regulation, as the Court noted above, the fact remains that the FAA has not sought to enforce any such regulations in this case.’
Basically, because the guy flying the drone was flying it barely above Meredith’s property, Meredith had the right to blow it out of the sky because the airspace right above his property is still his property and, also, even if it was high enough to no longer legally be considered his property, the Federal government hasn’t been enforcing those laws, which means that they are meaningless, at least for the purposes of this case.
While these court cases don’t settle the issue of drones and flying, and they don’t touch on the issue of government drones spying on us, these cases set a pattern which future judges can use both to influence their thinking on future court cases and also, potentially, as justification for ruling to allow people to protect the space above their property from prying eyes through drones. I’d say it’s a step in the right direction.
What do you think about these court cases? Tell us below.