You may have seen drones hovering near Florida’s highways. Is it a new police tactic to catch drivers and charge them with driving offenses? Or is it something of no consequence to you?
Drones are becoming more commonplace. So the ones you see could be anything from someone filming the landscape to one on its way to deliver goods. It could also be a police drone.
Last July, Florida brought in a new law clarifying how the police and fire service can use drones. Thankfully, issuing traffic tickets is not allowed, although this could change in the future.
That does not mean the police cannot use a drone to gather information against you when you are driving. The law permits police to use drones to collect evidence in traffic accidents and crime scenes.
Traffic tickets require a wheel witness
To issue you with a criminal traffic ticket, Florida requires the police have someone testify that you were driving at the time of the offense. That person is known as a wheel witness.
So, police typically cannot use drone footage or videos someone sends to issue a traffic ticket because they lack the human-wheel witness required.
That does not mean a court will rule out all camera footage. Many police cars now carry dashcams. The police officer could use the footage to back up what they, as a wheel witness, say you were doing. If you face a traffic charge, understanding what evidence the police have will be crucial to deciding how to contest the charge. Even if they have camera footage, there may be legal routes to challenge it.