National Alliance of State Broadcasters Associations

Fifth Circuit rejects media groups’ challenge of Texas drone regulations

An appellate panel said Texas photojournalists were wrong to believe they have a sweeping First Amendment right to film private citizens on private property without permission.

(CN) — In a loss for Texas journalists, a Fifth Circuit panel on Monday ruled a state law restricting use of drones does not violate the First Amendment.

While flying his drone over a San Marcos, Texas apartment complex where several people had died from an arson fire in July 2018, San Antonio Express-News multimedia reporter Billy Calzada was approached by a federal agent.

The agent told him he was interfering with a federal investigation and called San Marcos police.

An officer told Calzada he was violating Chapter 423 of the Texas Government Code and could be charged with misdemeanors, with penalties of up to 180 days in jail and a $10,000 fine, if he continued to use his drone to report on the fire or if he published any of the photos or footage he had taken with it.

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