Earlier this summer a felon with 29 prior convictions shot down a police drone with an illegal firearm in Florida. A federal grand jury has indicted the man for shooting down an unmanned aircraft, and the United States Attorney’s office for the Middle District of Florida announced that he will in fact be prosecuted. If convicted the man could face up to 30 years in prison. This is the first time a person is being prosecuted for shooting down an unmanned aircraft.
Felon with 29 prior convictions who shot down police drone with illegal firearm will be prosecuted
On July 11, 2021, deputies from the Lake County Sheriff’s Office responded to a burglary at a 10-acre business property in Mount Dora, court documents show.
To assist with a search mission, the deputies launched a Police drone. The unmanned aircraft was shot down by gunfire from a neighboring property shortly after taking off.
The deputies responded to the location from which the gunfire originated and confronted Goney. He acknowledged that he used his .22 caliber rifle to shoot down the police drone. The man said that drones had been ‘harassing’ him.
The man admitted to the deputies that he could not legally possess a firearm since he has 29 prior felony convictions in Florida. Under federal law, convicted felons are prohibited to possess firearms and ammunition, plane-lyspoken reports.
Goney has been indicted by a federal grand jury and the United States Attorney’s office for the Middle District of Florida said that he will in fact be prosecuted. If convicted the man could face up to 30 years in prison. This is the first time anybody is being prosecuted for shooting down a drone, even though there have been many more situations where drones have either been shot at or shot down.
Why will this man be prosecuted when others weren’t?
Why would somebody be prosecuted for shooting down an unmanned aircraft and possibly face up to 30 years in prison?
Well, obviously the 29 prior convictions don’t help, nor does Goney’s possession of an illegal firearm. However, shooting down a drone equates to shooting down a manned aircraft according to federal law.
Plane-lyspoken explains how this is possible:
In 1956, Congress enacted 18 U.S.C. § 32(a)(1), which made it a felony to “willfully . . . destroy, disable or wreck any aircraft in the special aircraft jurisdiction of the United States . . . .” The “special aircraft jurisdiction of the United States” is defined in 49 U.S.C. § 46501(2) as including “a civil aircraft of the United States . . . .” A “civil aircraft of the United States” is defined under 49 U.S.C. § 40102(17) as “an aircraft registered under chapter 441 of this title.” The requirements for drone registration contained in 14 C.F.R. part 48 were, in turn, promulgated pursuant to 49 U.S.C. part 441. As a result, if we drill all the way down to the bottom of this chain of definitions, there is little doubt that, although the statute regarding destruction of an aircraft was originally intended to apply to manned aircraft, it also applies to all but a few unmanned aircraft which are not registered.
So while there have been instances in the past where drones had been shot at and nobody was prosecuted, Goney’s situation as a felon with 29 prior convictions and using an illegal firearm to shoot a police drone out of the sky, is clearly different. We will follow this case closely and report on it here on DroneXL.
What do you think about people shooting down drones? Should they be prosecuted and face punishment? Let us know what you think in the comments below.
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