SENATE BUDGET AND APPROPRIATIONS COMMITTEE

 

STATEMENT TO

 

SENATE, No. 3370

 

with committee amendments

 

STATE OF NEW JERSEY

 

DATED: †NOVEMBER 20, 2017

 

††††† The Senate Budget and Appropriations Committee reports favorably Senate Bill No. 3370, with committee amendments.

††††† As amended, this bill regulates and prohibits the operation of unmanned aircraft systems, commonly referred to as drones, under certain circumstances.

††††† Under the bill, it is a disorderly persons offense to operate a drone: 1) knowingly or intentionally in a manner that endangers the life or property of another; 2) to take or assist in the taking of wildlife; and 3) while under the influence of intoxicating liquor, a narcotic, hallucinogenic, or habit-producing drug or with a blood alcohol concentration of 0.08% or more by weight of alcohol.† Disorderly persons offenses are punishable by a term of imprisonment of up to six months, a fine of up to $1,000, or both.

††††† The bill provides that it is a fourth degree crime for a person to knowingly or intentionally: 1) create or maintain a condition that endangers the safety or security of a correctional facility by operating a drone on the premises of or in close proximity to the facility; and 2) operate a drone in a manner that interferes with a first responder who is actively engaged in response or air, water, vehicular, ground, or specialized transport.† Fourth degree crimes are punishable by a term of imprisonment of up to 18 months, a fine of up to $10,000, or both.

††††† Further, it is a third degree crime for a person to knowingly operate a drone to conduct surveillance of or gather information about a correctional facility.† Third degree crimes are punishable by a term of imprisonment of three to five years, a fine of up to $15,000, or both.

††††† In addition, the bill prohibits a person from operating a drone for the purpose of hindering or preventing the lawful taking of wildlife.

††††† The bill also provides that it is a violation of a restraining order or any other court order restraining contact with a person or location for a person who is subject to that order to operate a drone within a distance of a person or location that would violate the order.

††††† The bill provides that a conviction under the bill is not to merge with a conviction of harassment, stalking, invasion of privacy, obstructing the administration of law or other governmental function, introducing contraband into a correctional facility, certain offenses of contempt of a domestic violence order, or any other criminal offense even if the other conviction involves the use of a drone.

††††† In addition, under the bill, a special sentence of parole supervision for life may include reasonable conditions prohibiting or restricting a personís operation of a drone to reduce the likelihood or recurrence of criminal or delinquent behavior.

††††† The bill provides that, except as prohibited by the provisions of the bill, a person who is authorized by federal law to operate a drone may do so, provided that operation is in a manner consistent with federal law and regulations.

††††† Further, the bill provides that an owner or operator of a critical infrastructure, including a political subdivision, may apply to the Administrator of the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), pursuant to the ďFAA Extension, Safety, and Security Act of 2016,Ē Pub.L.114-190, to prohibit or restrict the operation of drones in close proximity to the critical infrastructure.† In the case of a political subdivision, the political subdivision is required to hold at least one public hearing concerning the proposed FAA application.

††††† Finally, the provisions of this bill are to preempt any law, ordinance, resolution, or regulation adopted by the governing body of a county or municipality concerning the private use of a drone that is inconsistent with the billís provisions.

††††† The bill is scheduled to take effect on the first day of the fourth month next following the date of enactment.†

 

COMMITTEE AMENDMENTS:

††††† The amendments technically update the drone use restriction section of the bill that applies to parole supervision for life to reflect the recent statutory changes to the underlying law made by P.L.2017, c.141 (concerning parole supervision for life for the recently added crime of leader of a child pornography network).

 

FISCAL IMPACT:

††††† The Office of Legislative Services (OLS) anticipates that the State, county prosecutorís offices, local law enforcement agencies, and municipal courts will incur indeterminate additional annual operating expenses from enforcing, prosecuting, and trying the offenses established by the bill, and incarcerating any offenders.  The State also may receive indeterminate additional annual revenue from fines and penalties imposed on and collected from individuals convicted of the offenses established by this bill.

††††† However, the OLS lacks sufficient information to quantify the billís fiscal impacts.  It is unclear how many persons would be prosecuted, tried, and sentenced for the unlawful operation of a drone in fiscal years following enactment.