The extensive use of pilotless aircraft known as drones by the United States military in the Middle East has prompted law enforcement agencies to study the uses of these devices. The Scranton police department recently announced that it is acquiring its first drone amid questions about the legality of their use in the criminal legal system.
The Scranton police chief said that use of the drone would be limited and that only four officers would be trained in using the drone. According to the chief, the drone will be used to monitor large events such as the city's St. Patrick's Day parade. Other uses may include searching for missing persons and mapping outdoor crime scenes. Officers also say that a drone may help them during armed standoffs with suspected criminals. Once officers are trained to operate the drone, the police are hoping to live stream images to a camera network located at police headquarters.
Civil liberties advocates such as the American Civil Liberties Union have voiced criticism of using drones in law enforcement. Their concerns center on potential invasion of privacy rights and violation of the constitutional protection against unreasonable searches. The Scranton police chief acknowledged these issues, stating that the drone will only be used in public areas and that it "won't be going through windows, it won't be going into private residences or anything to that affect [sic]."
The advent of new policing technology frequently creates conflicts between the community's interest in effective law enforcement and the individual's right to be free from illegal searches and seizures. Anyone who faces criminal charges resulting from surveillance by a drone may wish to consult an experienced criminal defense lawyer for advice on the legality of the drone and suggestions about possible defense strategies.
Source: PA Home Page, "Scranton police to begin using drone technology," Eric Deabill, Nov. 10, 2016