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Colorado Lawmakers Delay Vote On Drones, Privacy

DENVER (AP) - A vote on legislation to criminalize the use of drones and other technology to monitor or take images of someone was delayed Tuesday as Colorado lawmakers wrestled with how to prevent penalties for everyday photography.

The measure heard by the House Judiciary Committee would make it a crime of first-degree trespassing to take images of someone when they have an expectation of privacy. Drone users could also be charged with harassment if they use the technology to monitor someone's movements.

A drone (credit: CBS)

"As technology moves forward, our privacy is becoming more dear to us," said the bill sponsor, Rep. Polly Lawrence, R-Littleton.

Lawrence's bill is not just about drones, but "any type of electronic surveillance when a person has a reasonable expectation of privacy." An amendment to the bill elaborating on that language made lawmakers concerned.

"The only things making the taking of a photograph legal is whether person had a reasonable expectation of privacy at the time you took the photograph. That seems to me a terribly sweeping criminalization of photography," said Rep. Daniel Kagan, D-Cherry Hills Village.

RELATED STORIES: More Drones Stories

Lawrence asked the committee to delay voting on her bill so she can rework the language of her proposal. Another hearing was not immediately scheduled.

A handful of states have passed laws creating penalties for the use of drones to invade someone's privacy, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures. Six states have also passed limits and guidelines on how law enforcement uses drones, but a Colorado bill to limit government use of drones failed last month in the Senate.

du lacrosse drone
A drone used by DU's lacrosse team (credit: CBS)

Currently, prosecutors can charge stalkers who use electronic devices the same way they charge Peeping Toms. But Lawrence said she wants to broaden current law to include new types of electronic surveillance and penalties that can keep up with technological advances.

"Because technology is always changing, that's why I tried to move to a more technology-agnostic approach," she said. "Anything that would capture your image, or sound - I mean there's just so many things that can capture your image through a wall even. And if someone is even standing outside your property, but they're taking a picture of you in your home with your family, that's an invasion of your privacy."

Lawrence said she got the idea for her bill from a constituent who became anxious when she saw a drone with a camera hovering over her deck to take pictures of an adjacent house. The drone was from a real-estate agent, but Lawrence said it made the woman nervous because she had left an abusive husband.

LINK: House Bill 1115

- By Ivan Moreno, AP Writer

(© Copyright 2015 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)

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