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People v. Meredith: Drones Get a Court Precedent

A man who shot down a video surveillance drone flying over his property—and his two sunbathing  daughters—was vindicated in court this week when a judge said that he had every right to blow the thing out of the air.

William Merideth shot down the drone in Hillview, Ky. in July. Police arrested him for firing a gun within city limits under charges of “wanton endangerment” and “criminal mishchief,” but Meredith took the line that the operator, a guy named David Boggs, was violating his privacy and spying on his family.

A Bullitt County District Court Judge in Kentucky sided with Meredith and dismissed both charges.

"Was it handled the right way, I don't think so—but justice came out in the end," said Merideth. "I was in my right to protect my family and my property.”

Boggs however testified that flight data showed the drone was flying higher than Meredith said—but at least two witnesses could see the drone below the tree line.

“Do you also agree that you chose to allow that drone to hover over some of those people's property there on Earlywood Way?" Merideth’s attorney asked Boggs on the stand.

“No, that's not true," he answered.

The news comes as Kentucky state representative Diane St. Onge pre-filed her drone harassment bill for the 2016 session. It says a person is “guilty of harassment when they hover over or land on someone's property, or use a drone for no legitimate purpose, to commit acts that alarm or seriously annoy someone.”

The People v. Meredith will likely go down as an important precedent as the law is tested by the real-world use of drones for business and pleasure.

“Now I don't encourage people to just go out and start blasting stuff for no reason—but three times in one day, three times over the course of a year, six times total, over one property?” Meredith told local TV station WDRB. “That's not right, that's harassment."

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