It has been established that shooting down a drone could land one in jail for 20 years. Federal Law 18 USC S 32 states that anyone who willfully “sets fire to, damages, destroys, or wrecks an aircraft” will be fined or imprisoned no more than 20 years or both.
Penalty for Shooting Down a Drone
The Federal Aviation Authority (FAA) categorizes drones as aircraft and warns that threatening anyone operating a drone is a criminal offence with the penalty of a jail term. The law also states that shooting down a drone could lead to a 20-year jail term or a fine option of $250,000.
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These are the same rules that applies to aircraft and helicopters.
“There will be exceptions to what is considered a lawful reason to shoot down a drone, but the FAA still defines a drone as an aircraft and shooting it down is a felony,” Joseph Lamonaca of the National and International Aviation Law Firm and appointed safety team representative of the FAA told DailyMail.
Lamonaca continued, “The major issue with this law is that anyone who just threatens to shoot down a drone could get five years in prison. That means, telling your neighbor that you are going to shoot down their drone can put you in jail.”
Jim Peters, public affairs specialist, said, “We can’t comment on pending state legislation. A private citizen shooting at any aircraft—including unmanned aircraft—poses a significant safety hazard. An unmanned aircraft hit by gunfire could crash, causing damage to persons or property on the ground, or it could collide with other objects in the air.”
Lamonaca added, “Shooting at an unmanned aircraft could result in a civil penalty from the FAA and/or criminal charges filed by federal, state, or local law enforcement. There also may be state or municipal ordinances that address property owners’ rights.
“Right now there is a lot of debate over how to investigate and collect evidence and a typical case is usually handled by the local police, who are still not aware about the jurisdiction.”
William Meredith from Kentucky was arrested for shooting a drone flying over his yard. He was charged with first degree wanton endangerment and criminal mischief.
“Well, I came out and it was down by the neighbor’s house, about 10 feet off the ground, looking under their canopy that they’ve got in their back yard,” Merideth said. “I went and got my shotgun and I said, ‘I’m not going to do anything unless it’s directly over my property.'”
The drone flew over his yard and Merideth shot the drone.
“The FAA and Congress define an aircraft as anything invented, used, or designed to navigate or fly in the air and it is such a broad definition,” said Lamonaca. “The problem is that this is just so general, it’s like going back to the Wright Brothers with all new regulations being put in place.”