Kentucky laws vague regarding drone use and personal privacy - WDRB 41 Louisville News

Kentucky laws vague regarding drone use and personal privacy

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William Merideth explains what led to him shooting down the drone outside his home in Hillview, Ky. William Merideth explains what led to him shooting down the drone outside his home in Hillview, Ky.

BULLITT COUNTY, Ky. (WDRB) -- His story made national headlines in less than 12 hours and a lot of people are standing behind the Bullitt County man who was arrested after shooting down a drone.

According to Hillview Police, William Merideth broke the law when he shot his gun within city limits.

Some Kentucky lawmakers and advocates say things need to change regarding his family's right to privacy.

"I agree with the homeowner -- drones are invasive," said Eric Guster of Guster Law Firm. He appeared on the Fox News Channel Wednesday morning after Merideth’s story gained national attention.

"If a drone is hovering over your house, do you reasonably believe that it's invading your privacy, taking pictures of your wife, is it peering into the bathroom? Those are types of things that drones can do," said Guster.

That's what William Merideth says he was worried about. Sunday evening, his daughter noticed a drone flying over their house in Hillview. Merideth got his shotgun and shot it down.

“If he would've just flown over my property there wouldn't have been a word said,” said Merideth. “But when he hovered above my property for more than a few seconds, I feel like I had the right to defend my property."

Merideth is now charged with wanton endangerment and criminal mischief because he fired a gun within city limits. 

Defense attorney David Mejia says using a shotgun may not have been the best option, but he would have no difficulty defending Merideth in court.

"He believed it (threat) to be imminent, he believed it to be immediate and he honestly subjectively believed that his right as a Kentucky citizen permitted him to protect his privacy and that's what he did," Mejia said. "He put that gun to the use for which it was designed and manufactured and it worked."

There are video, voyeurism, and trespassing laws -- but there do not appear to be any Kentucky or federal statutes relating to privacy specifically involving drones.

The FAA says it has the responsibility to keep the airspace safe from the ground up. Typically, regular aircraft fly above 500 feet.

According to the Academy of Model Aeronautics Safety Code, drones should not fly higher than 400 feet.

But what about the airspace directly over your home? An FAA spokesperson says he's asking its attorneys for an answer.

"Right now there are no guidelines to these unmanned drones," said Merideth.

Rep. Diane St. Onge, House District 63, is trying to change that.

"I think this is exactly the type of issue that we need to be addressing,” she said.

For the past two years St. Onge has sponsored legislation to regulate drones and protect people’s privacy. Those bills never passed.

"Should this have been passed and heard and passed last session,” said St. Onge, “perhaps this incident that happened with this gentleman -- shooting down a drone hovering over his backyard -- would not have occurred because we'd know the parameters are and what the law is.  The law enforcement would know what to do."

Merideth now hopes more politicians take notice.

"There needs to be federal guidelines on the way these people can operate these and collect data,” he said.

A judge will ultimately decide what happens to Merideth.

St. Onge says she plans to reintroduce her drone bill later this summer.

Previous: Hillview man arrested for shooting down drone; cites right to privacy

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