Early this morning the House Criminal Jurisprudence Committee took testimony on HB 912 by Rep. Lance Gooden (R-Terrell). The bill imposes criminal sanctions and establishes a civil cause of action against a person who uses an unmanned vehicle or aircraft to capture an image without the express consent of the person who owns or legally occupies the real property captured in the image. Concerns have been raised about the broad scope of the bill, the limited defenses to prosecution, and the new right of action that entitles a claimant to injunctive relief, civil penalties, court costs, and attorney’s fees.
Witnesses appearing in favor of the bill primarily cited the potential violation of personal privacy associated with the use of unmanned drones to capture images on private property. Opponents of the bill included broadcasters, press photographers, and the Texas Press Association, all of whom raised First Amendment concerns. Texans for Lawsuit Reform spoke to the potential unintended consequences of the bill and the expansive scope of the new civil cause of action. Drone technology companies also testified about the legitimate governmental and business uses associated with the use of the technology and the bill’s potential chilling effect on the industry.
TCJL, TLR , and other interested parties are working with Rep. Gooden to address these concerns and to craft a workable solution that balances privacy interests with legitimate and beneficial uses of the technology. HB 912 was left pending before the committee.