Using a drone to spy on your neighbors may not be illegal, but shooting one down apparently is. Two men in different states are facing criminal charges for shooting down drones that were flying over their own property.
William H. Merideth was arrested and jailed after blasting a drone he claims was spying on his daughters on July 28. The Hillview, Kentucky, resident says he shot the drone because it was flying over the backyard where his 16-year-old daughter was laying by the pool.
“You know, when you’re in your own property, within a six-foot privacy fence, you have the expectation of privacy,” Merideth told TV station WDRB. “We don’t know if he was looking at the girls. We don’t know if he was looking for something to steal. To me, it was the same as trespassing.”
“If he would’ve just flown over my property there wouldn’t have been a word said,” Merideth added. “But when he hovered above my property for more than a few seconds, I feel like I had the right to defend my property.”
The drone’s owners came over and complained to Merideth before calling the Hillview police department, which arrested Merideth for criminal mischief and wanton endangerment.
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Merideth was booked into the county jail but later released on bail. Merideth is upset with cops because they gave the drone back to its owner.
“They didn’t confiscate the drone,” Merideth complained. “… They didn’t take the SIM card out of it … but we’ve got … five houses here that everyone saw it – they saw what happened, including the neighbors that were sitting on their patio when he flew down low enough to see under the patio.”
Merideth said he is looking into the possibility of taking legal action of his own against the drone’s owner, David Boggs.
“Well, I came out and it was down by the neighbor’s house, about 10 feet off the ground, looking under their canopy that they’ve got in their backyard,” Merideth said. “I went and got my shotgun and I said, ‘I’m not going to do anything unless it’s directly over my property.’
“Within a minute or so, here it came,” he added. “It was hovering over top of my property, and I shot it out of the sky.”
Boggs has disputed some parts of Merideth’s story, according to Ars Technica, and has said he was only filming a friend’s house.
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Merideth is not the only one facing criminal charges for firing a shotgun at a drone. A grand jury in Cape May County, New Jersey, charged Russell Percenti with unlawful possession of a weapon and criminal mischief for firing a shotgun at a drone filming near his home on September 26, 2014. Percenti could face up to 10 years in prison if he is convicted.
It is not clear what will happen to Merideth or Percenti, because the law governing drones is unclear. A spokesperson for the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) told Kentucky’s WDRB that he would have to consult the agency’s attorneys for an answer.
There are no Kentucky or federal laws covering the subject of drones and privacy, defense attorney David Mejia told WDRB. Mejia said he would have no trouble defending Merideth.
“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.”
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