April 3, 2017 By Paul Wallin


Can You Be Arrested for Flying a Drone? (PC 402)

Whether it’s taking aerial photos or video, conducting research in remote areas or just for fun, remote-controlled drones have never been more popular than they are today. For about $2,000, you can buy a drone with a mount for a camera and take to the skies.

However, the popularity of drones has received the attention of lawmakers, who have passed laws over the past few years that prevent the use of drones in certain situations. Here are a couple of laws you should know about before you are cleared for take off:

Interference with Emergency Personnel (PC 402)

Previously, it was a misdemeanor under PC 402 to be physically present at the scene of an emergency if:

  • You were there solely for the purpose of watching the event, and
  • You interfered with emergency personnel who were performing their duties at the scene

As of 2016, California’s lawmakers approved a change to this law to include any person “regardless of his or her location, who operates or uses an unmanned aerial vehicle, remote piloted aircraft, or drone that is at the scene of an emergency.” This means you can be charged with a crime if your drone is disruptive to the emergency personnel in the performance of their duties, no matter where your body was located at the time. An example of this is flying a drone over the scene of a wildfire and preventing firefighting aircraft from safely doing their job.

If convicted of violating PC 402, you face up to six months in county jail and a fine of $1,000.

No Civil Liability for Damage By Emergency Personnel (Civil Code 43.101)

Similar to the above law, California Civil Code Section 43.101 gives emergency personnel immunity from having to pay for damage caused to any drone that occurs as a result of its interference with the performance of their duties. So, if you piloted your drone over a wildfire and a firefighting tanker dropped its payload on your drone while it was trying to douse the fire, you could not successfully sue the aircraft’s personnel for the damages.

Federal Regulations on Drone Use

In addition to these California laws, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has imposed a number of regulations regarding the use of drones as well.1 Some of these regulations include:

  • Pilot must be certified, with renewal every two years
  • No flights can be above 400 feet
  • The weight of the drone cannot exceed 55 pounds (including its payload)
  • Drones can only fly during daylight hours
  • Drones cannot be flown above persons who are not participating in the flight
  • A drone must give right of way to all other aircraft
  • No flights near airports or heliports

Failure to follow these regulations can result in the loss of your right to fly a drone. You could also be fined an amount that is generally in the range of $400 to $5,500.

Contact the Criminal Defense Attorneys at Wallin & Klarich Today

Have you been charged with a crime related to the use of your drone? Give the attorneys at Wallin & Klarich a call today. You should contact our skilled criminal defense attorneys at Wallin & Klarich today. Our knowledgeable criminal lawyers have been successfully defending clients facing criminal charges for more than 40 years. We can help you now.

With offices in Orange County, Riverside, San Bernardino, Los Angeles, San Diego, West Covina, Torrance and Victorville, there is an experienced and skilled Wallin & Klarich criminal defense attorney available to help you no matter where you are located.

Contact our offices today at (877) 4-NO-JAIL or (877) 466-5245 for a free phone consultation. We will be there when you call.

AUTHOR: Paul Wallin

Paul Wallin is one of the most highly respected attorneys in Southern California. His vast experience, zealous advocacy for his clients and extensive knowledge of many areas of the law make Mr. Wallin a premiere Southern California attorney. Mr. Wallin founded Wallin & Klarich in 1981. As the senior partner of Wallin & Klarich, Mr. Wallin has been successfully representing clients for more than 30 years. Clients come to him for help in matters involving assault and battery, drug crimes, juvenile crimes, theft, manslaughter, sex offenses, murder, violent crimes, misdemeanors and felonies. Mr. Wallin also helps clients with family law matters such as divorce and child custody.

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