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Drone Operators Could Face Jail Time Violating New City Law

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Los Angeles is tired of dealing with pesky drones, and today the City Council passed an ordinance to clamp down on them.The measure, which passed the City Council by a unanimous vote, uses the same guidelines for drone flying laid out by the FAA, but gives the police more abilities to prosecute operators and hit them with criminal charges. A person could soon face up to $1,000 in fines and six months of jail time for flying higher than 500 feet, within five miles of an airport or within 25 feet of another person. Under FAA guidelines a person could only be fined, not jailed, and possibly lose their drone and their permission to fly them.

"Drones aren't the problem, but the operators are," Councilman Mitch Englander, the measure's co-author, told City News Service. "And where they jeopardize public safety, they need to be regulated." These new laws will ensure that, "we have the rules to enforce the [FAA] guidelines here in L.A.," the councilman added.

In August, a drone operator was handcuffed by LAPD officers after he flew too close to a police helicopter. Without any laws regulating drones currently in the city ordinances, he was charged with obstructing police, according to the L.A. Times.

The LAPD has previously frowned on civilian drones operating near police, expressing their unhappiness with local activist Tom Zebra when he flew drones over the Hollywood police station and over an Ezell Ford protest.

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Drones interfering with police and firefighting aircraft have become an issue in recent months with firefighting efforts against California wildfire was interrupted by civilian drones. While lawmakers passed a bill earlier this year that would allow firefighters to destroy drones that get in their way, Governor Jerry Brown vetoed that bill and two other drone-regulating laws earlier this month, saying that adding more laws was unnecessary.

The new ordinance awaits Mayor Eric Garcetti's signature and would go into effect 40 days after he signs it.