Judge says drone was invading the privacy of the man who shot it

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Jon Turi
October 28th, 2015
In this article: drone, law, lawsuit, TL17DRNPRV
Judge says drone was invading the privacy of the man who shot it

William Merideth, the man from Kentucky who shot down a drone earlier this year, told WDRB that he felt vindicated after a district judge dismissed the charges against him, even if the accuser can still take the case before a grand jury. He was originally charged for firing his gun within city limits, but the judge has decided on Monday that the drone invaded his privacy, giving him the right to shoot it. The judge came to that conclusion after two witnesses testified that the UAV flew below the tree line of Merideth's property. However, the Phantom 3 drone's owner and pilot, David Boggs, provided Ars Technica with a video back in August showing that his machine was flying 200 feet above the ground. Boggs said that the judge didn't bother looking at the video he provided, a decision that he claimed shocked even the police officers involved in the case.

He told Ars:

What happened in court was unbelievable -- I don't know how to describe how I feel about it. Before [the hearing] was 20 minutes old, she dismissed the wanton endangerment charge. She said, 'I don't think anybody's life was in danger, and I'm going to dismiss that.

When I came back in and she was going to make her ruling, she didn't look at the video, she didn't look at the telemetry data, and there were no witnesses called on behalf of the state. She didn't care what the video said. She believed what the neighbor said and that the drone was below the tree line. The judge didn't look at the video, paid no consideration to the video. I'm just shocked, beyond shocked. The police officers were shocked. So in essence what she's saying is that if a news helicopter flies over your house, you can shoot it down, too. There was no regard to the truth whatsoever. None.

Boggs now plans to file a civil lawsuit, due to the shooter "doubl[ing] down on his lies." Merideth, on the other hand, said his neighbors saw the drone making previous flights over his land and believes he "was in [his] right to protect [his] family and [his] property." He also told Ars that the video doesn't show which flight the footage was from. He clarified to WDRB that he doesn't "encourage people to just go out and start blasting stuff for no reason." However, he's well aware that similar cases in the future will refer to this lawsuit -- just like that famous McDonald's coffee case -- as authorities are still figuring out the legal groundwork for drone use.

[Image credit: Getty Images/iStockphoto (edited to add drone silhouette)]

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