California Governor Jerry Brown has vetoed a bill that would have made criminals out of those flying drones illegally. The Los Angeles Times reported the bill, which resulted from the grounding of air tankers when hobby drones were spotted near wildfires, seems to have been rejected by Brown for economic and philosophical reasons, saying creating new criminals has taxed the penal system to the limit and beyond. The bill would have set fines at $5,000 and prison sentences up to six months for flying drones over wildfires. Other bills would have set similar penalties for flying drones over schools and prisons. "Before we keep going down this road, I think we should pause and reflect how our system of criminal justice could be made more human, more just and more cost-effective," he said.
Several times over the summer, air tankers were grounded because drones were spotted in the area of the fires. In some cases, fire officials claimed the absence of air support resulted in the loss of homes and other property. That prompted the call for serious consequences for flying drones near fires but Brown said in his statement that being stupid shouldn't necessarily land someone in jail, especially since the actions are already a violation of other laws or regulations. "Over the last several decades, California's criminal code has grown to more than 5,000 provisions covering every almost conceivable form of human misbehavior," he said. "During the same period, our jail and prison populations have exploded." Brown has vetoed numerous other proposed laws, including one that would have made it a misdemeanor to vandalize a redwood burl.