Drone flights in New York City are no longer allowed and could result in the arrest of an innocent man, a federal judge ruled Thursday.
U.S. District Judge Charles Breyer said the flights violate New York’s “Unlawful and Unconstitutional Drone Regulations.”
He said the drone flights, which are common in parts of the city where police conduct surveillance, could result a violation of privacy.
The drone flights were common in Manhattan and Queens and involved police officers, as well as bystanders.
Breyer also said the drones, which cost between $5,000 and $10,000 each, are used to monitor areas frequented by people of color.
A federal lawsuit filed by the NYPD and New York State Attorney General Eric Schneiderman accused the NYPD of violating privacy rules by flying unmanned drones over New York.
“I cannot help but feel the drone is being used as an unnecessary and unconstitutionally invasive means of law enforcement surveillance,” Breyer wrote in a ruling that could have wide-reaching consequences for New York, the nation’s largest and most populous city.
New York is among several cities in the country that allow police to fly unmanned drones.
The federal judge, however, said he would let the case move forward with the exception that the police could not conduct surveillance on people in their homes or cars.
The New York Police Department has been involved in other cases where drones have been used to spy on suspects and others in the city.
The drones, sometimes called Stingrays, are essentially devices that can send and receive data using radio waves and other electromagnetic signals, the judge wrote.
Breyers ruling came just days after a judge in New Mexico ruled that the New York Metropolitan Transportation Authority’s use of drones violated the state’s privacy laws.