Raleigh – A new law goes into effect today that helps increase public safety at prisons in North Carolina. As of Dec. 1, it is illegal to fly unmanned aircraft systems, also called drones, 250 feet above and within 500 feet of correctional facilities.
Under the new law, those who use drones to try to sneak cell phones, weapons or other contraband material into a correctional facility can be charged with a felony. People who simply fly drones near prisons can be charged with misdemeanors.
“Unfortunately, there are those who want to use this technology for nefarious purposes rather than its intended use,” said Public Safety Secretary Erik A. Hooks. “This law provides us with an additional tool to help keep contraband out of correctional facilities, which in turn helps with maintaining safety and security.”
Secretary Hooks is grateful to Governor Roy Cooper and North Carolina legislators for recognizing the importance of maintaining secure boundaries in the air, as well as on the ground.
North Carolina legislators approved the new law earlier in July with support from the Department of Public Safety to prevent illegal items from making it inside any of the state’s correctional facilities. Prior to the enactment of the legislation, there were several instances of drones flying near prisons including two incidents in which drones with contraband material attached were found. In both cases, correctional staff confiscated the materials and the drones before they reached inmates.
“We have heard of incidents in other states where drones have successfully delivered contraband to inmates,” said Kenneth Lassiter, Director of Prisons. “We are hopeful that the new law will serve as a deterrent as we will push for prosecuting violators to the fullest extent should it become necessary.”
The legislation also prevents model aircraft from flying near correctional facilities. However, it does include some exceptions for Emergency Management and law enforcement operations.