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How Police Drones Could Affect Your Case

How Police Drones Could Affect Your Case

Drone technology is taking the world by storm, from filming weddings to capturing live footage at football games. Whether you're a kid or an adult, drones are something right out of the future, but their benefits extend far beyond what you might think.

To Protect, and To. . .Fly?

Las Vegas police are introducing a drone program to help document crimes and take footage of crime scenes. Similar programs have popped up in precincts around the U.S., but it's the first of its kind in Las Vegas.

Drone footage offered a critical look at the shooting near Mandalay Bay in 2017. The massacre resulted in 58 deaths and over 859 injuries. Drones were able to capture video evidence of the enormous crime scene, which helped law enforcement make progress on the case.

Las Vegas police usually use their flying companions for homicide, and deadly car crashes in addition to police officer-involved shootings or SWAT operations. Previously, law enforcement had to use helicopters to gather aerial footage, but the choppers were prone to engine failure. Drones are smaller, cheaper, and fly without human pilots, which keeps officers safe and informed. So, how is drone footage used in criminal cases, and how can it be used against you?

A Bird's Eye View

Aerial footage comes in handy in various cases, but most notably, the O.J. Simpson case in 1994. Simpson was charged with murder and fled from law enforcement in a white Ford Bronco. Helicopter pilot Zoey Tur, who was flying for KCBS-TV, followed a hunch and was able to locate Simpson on the 91 Freeway near Orange County. The footage from her chopper would be a part of one of the most famous police pursuits in history.

Tur's footage helped the FBI and LAPD triangulate Simpson's location. Footage like this is extremely valuable when the suspect escapes or is possibly still on the scene of the crime. While helicopters are status quo for aerial evidence, drones are quickly becoming a go-to for law enforcement.

Not only are drones cheaper, but they can go into smaller areas where helicopters can't. They are more easily maneuverable and covert, so it's harder to detect one near the crime scene. With a drone, police can evaluate the scene from a safe distance and gather visual evidence on par with what they might observe themselves.

This evidence can help prosecutors and police build a case against the person accused of a crime, but how could drone footage affect your case, and what legal protections do you have?

Drones and the Law

So far, there aren't many laws to limit what drones can or can't do specifically, but police are not allowed to fly them over neighborhoods or look through windows without a search warrant.

Las Vegas police are looking into the benefits of using drones for surveillance and patrols, but there is a large margin for error until the force is fully trained. The chances of intruding on people without a warrant can't be ruled out just yet.

Other than safety certifications, there aren't many regulations to follow when using drones for policing. They can offer crime scene footage and evidence similar to security cameras, but unless they can provide concrete proof, their role in a criminal trial will be a supporting one for now.

The Draskovich Law Group will continue to follow the story as it develops.


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