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Governor Brown Signs SB 807, Granting Immunity to Cities for Damage or Destruction of Drones Interfering with Emergency Operations

September 30, 2016
SB 807 (Gaines) was signed by Gov. Jerry Brown on Sept. 29, which provides local agency first responders with immunity should they damage or destroy a drone that is interfering with their emergency operations.
The bill, co-sponsored by the League of California Cities® and the California Police Chiefs Association, is the only measure on drone regulation that the Governor has signed this year. He vetoed the others.

In 2015, the Governor vetoed a bill similar to SB 807. He also vetoed SB 168 last year, which was also by Sen. Ted Gaines (R-El Dorado Hills). The Governor in his veto measure cited his objection to the fact that it created a new misdemeanor offense, which he did not believe to be necessary. 
SB 807 created no new criminal offenses of any kind, and was limited in scope to local agency first responders once objections were raised that stage agencies did not need any greater expression of immunity in statute.
Under the California Constitution, cities are independent sovereign entities independent of the state. While cities have immunity under current law, it is not the same immunity that the state enjoys. Municipal immunity is more limited, and must be affirmatively raised in court as a defense, after cities have already been sued. Courts will recognize that immunity, but only after cities have incurred significant expense in defending themselves in litigation against what in this instance are lawsuits without merit. 
SB 807 helps local governments by eliminating the requirement that they incur the expense of legal fees for litigation, in the narrow instance of lawsuits arising for damage to drones that were interfering with first responder operations. The immunity conferred on local government does not extend to any secondary damage that may arise once the drone comes down.

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