Can I Shoot Down My Neighbor’s Drone?

Drones are becoming more and more popular across the country. Once reserved for use by the military, drones are gaining traction with corporations and personal users. If you took a trip down to the Santa Monica State Beach, you probably wouldn’t be surprised to see several small drones zipping through the air.

As drones become more popular, though, they are also gaining critics. Drones can easily be outfitted with photo, video, and audio recording devices and pose a threat to personal privacy. Drones can also just be flat-out irritating, as well. If you’re sitting in your own backyard, you may not want to listen to the constant buzz and hum of your neighbor’s drone as it patrols the neighborhood.

So, what can you do to stop the invasion of the drones on your own personal property? This has been a popular question in recent days. Some people have not waited for an answer to this question and taken matters into their own hands by shooting down drones that fly over their land. While this may be personally satisfying, it can also bring a lot of legal trouble. Fortunately, you may have some other ways to protect your land from unwanted drone intrusions.

Don’t Shoot Down Your Neighbor’s Drone

Discharging a firearm in a residential neighborhood can get you into a world of legal trouble. It is even possible that you could face criminal charges in Los Angeles. If your actions caused someone to get hurt, a simple misdemeanor charge could easily evolve into a complex and life-altering felony matter.

In addition to criminal charges, you could also be sued by the drone’s owner for the destruction of their property. Recently, a man who shot down his neighbor’s drone was ordered to pay $850 in damages for destroying the tiny electric hovercraft. As a result, he basically paid his neighbor enough money to buy yet another drone to fly over his property.

Legal Steps to Stop Annoying Drones

If your neighbor insists on flying a drone over your personal property, don’t worry. You’re not without legal rights and options. The legal rights you may be able to assert will depend on the specific circumstances of your case.

Private Nuisance

You have the right to enjoy your personal property without interference in Los Angeles. If a neighbor engages in behavior that prevents you from enjoying your land, their actions may be considered a private nuisance. Filing a civil private nuisance lawsuit can allow you to recover compensation as well as equitable relief. Equitable relief simply means that the defendant in your case will be ordered to do (or stop doing) something. For example, part of your recovery could include a court order that prohibits your neighbor from flying the drone within 50 feet of your property.

In California, a private nuisance exists when another person acts without your consent and creates a condition that prevents you from freely using and enjoying your property. You can recover compensation for this private nuisance if:

  1. An ordinary person would have also been reasonably annoyed or disturbed,
  2. You were harmed as a result of this conduct, and
  3. The seriousness of the harm you’ve suffered outweighs the public benefit of the other person’s actions.

In simpler terms, a private nuisance exists when another person acts in a way that would cause a reasonable person to be offended or disturbed.

Does your property have to be physically harmed in order for a private nuisance to exist? No. The fact that your ability to freely enjoy your own property is enough to create a private nuisance.

Invasion of Privacy

As drones are becoming more popular, California law is changing to reflect possible legal issues. One recent change addresses the potential for invasions of privacy. California law prohibits one person from operating a drone over another person’s property with the intent to record private moments without consent. Recording refers to still photographs, video footage, or sound.

Individuals who use drones to spy on others can be guilty of trespass and invasion of privacy. If you can prove that your neighbor intended to record your private moments, you may be able to recover monetary damages and get a court order requiring them to cease similar activity in the future.

Need More Assistance?

Sometimes personal injuries do not require us to suffer physical harm. Drones can be irritating and infringe our rights to enjoy our own property in peace. Drones can also be used to violate our sense of privacy and cause demonstrable emotional harm.

If your neighbor has repeatedly operated a drone over your land, you may want to consider legal action. Contact Glotzer & Leib, LLP to schedule a free consultation with our Los Angeles personal injury attorneys. We will review your situation, explain the legal options that may be available to you, and answer any questions you have.