New Jersey Gets Tough on Drunken Drone Pilots

TRENTON, N.J. (CN) –  The upcoming reboot of the “Jersey Shore” may not feature high-tech liquor-drenched party drones after Garden State Legislature on Thursday criminalized the piloting of drones while drunk or high.

New Jersey’s Democrat-led Senate approved the bill 39-0, making intoxicated drone piloting a disorderly persons offense, which is punishable by a term of imprisonment of up to six months, a fine of up to $1,000, or both.

“A person commits a disorderly persons offense if he operates an unmanned aircraft system while under the influence of intoxicating liquor, a narcotic, hallucinogenic, or habit-producing drug or with a blood alcohol concentration of 0.08% or more by weight of alcohol in the defendant’s blood,” the bill states.

The bill was authored by state Sen. Paul Sarlo, a Democrat who is also the deputy majority leader and the chair of budget and appropriations.

As commercial drones have become more popular and affordable, some New Jersey counties already have laws in place regarding drunken droning. Thursday’s bill created a statewide policy.

The bill also prohibits using drones to endanger safety at correctional facilities, which would be a third-degree crime, punishable by three to five years in prison, up to a $15,000 fine, or both.

In a statement earlier this week by the bill’s co-sponsor, Assemblywoman Annette Quijano said drones “have become increasingly disruptive, causing near-misses with airplanes, interfering with firefighter operations and being used to smuggle drugs and other contraband into prisons.”

“This bill sets specific guidelines for how New Jersey’s residents are able to utilize these devices to establish some order and help prevent these dangerous situations,” Quijano added.

Personal-injury lawyers nationwide now offer attorneys specializing in drone accidents in response to the growing trend of drone-related mishaps.

The Federal Aviation Administration forecasts that the quantity of hobbyist drones will more than triple in size over the next five years, from 1.1 million units in 2016 to more than 3.5 million units by 2021.

The FAA said “falling prices, improved technology such as built-in camera and ease of use” have facilitated the product’s recent rise in popularity.

Amazon.com has tens of thousands of results for remote-controlled quadcopters, including the best-selling Holy Stone HS100 FPV RC drone, which sells for $279.99. Holy Stone has a miniature model retailing for $39.99 as well.

The office of New Jersey Governor Chris Christie did not immediately respond to request for comment Friday afternoon regarding the bill.

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