Judge Dismisses Charges Against Man Who Shot Down Drone

By Jonathan Zhou
Jonathan Zhou
Jonathan Zhou
Jonathan Zhou is a tech reporter who has written about drones, artificial intelligence, and space exploration.
October 28, 2015 Updated: November 2, 2015

A Kentucky man who was charged with criminal mischief after he blasted his neighbor’s drone out of the sky with a shotgun had his charges dismissed by a judge.

Bullitt County Judge Rebecca Ward said that there was credible evidence that the drone had flown over William H. Merideth’s home multiple times, constituting “an invasion of their privacy and that they had the right to shoot this drone,” NBC affiliate Wave 3 News reported.

The police had arrested Merideth for discharging a firearm within city limits, an action restricted to law enforcement officials and civilians in situations calling for self-defense.

“I feel good,” Merideth told Wave 3 News. “I feel vindicated. Police told me there was nothing they could do about it. Nobody would do anything about it, so I did something about it.”

Drones currently operate in the penumbra of the law in many states due to their novelty, with states and federal governments playing catch-up with the new technology, which technically falls under existing aerospace law that does little to address the potential threats to privacy posed by drones. 

As a result, some homeowners have felt the need to take the law into their own hands, and there have been multiple cases of drones being shot out of the sky across the country. In California, Brett McBay was sued in small claims court after he felled his neighbor’s drone, and was ordered to pay $850 to his neighbor as compensation in June.

Homeowners worried about their privacy aren’t the only ones who have clashed with drones. In June, a firefighting mission in California was disrupted when a wayward drone blocked the path of an airplane that was delivering water to put out roving forest fires.

In response, state legislators have drafted a bill that would grant firefighters legal immunity to destroy drones at will if they interfered with their firefighting missions.

As of 2015, 26 states have laws regulating drones, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures, with many of them prohibiting the use of cameras to record other people on private property without their permission.

Kentucky has no drone laws on its books, but state representative Diane St. Onge said recently in October that a bill is in the works that would address the use of drones over private property. The bill would make second offenses a class B misdemeanor, and a third offense a class A misdemeanor.

Jonathan Zhou is a tech reporter who has written about drones, artificial intelligence, and space exploration.