Score one conviction for domestic drones.
On January 14, North Dakota cattle rancher Rodney Brossart was sentenced to three years in prison (two and a half of which were suspended) for terrorizing police officers and resisting arrest.
The case gained national attention as Brossart is believed to be the first American to have been arrested with the aid of a drone operated by law enforcement.
Brossart was tracked and arrested by local law enforcement with the use of a federally owned aerial surveillance vehicle after holding the police at bay for over 16 hours.
Brossart’s run-in with law enforcement began after six cows found their way onto his property (about 3,000 acres near Lakota, North Dakota) and he refused to turn them over to officers. In fact, according to several sources, Brossart and a few family members ran police off his farm at the point of a gun.
Naturally, police weren’t pleased with Brossart’s brand of hospitality, so they returned with a warrant, with a SWAT team, and with a determination to apprehend Brossart and the cattle.
A standoff ensued and the Grand Forks police SWAT team made a call to a local Air Force base where they knew a Predator drone was deployed by the Department of Homeland Security. About three years before the Brossart incident, the police department had signed an agreement with DHS for the use of the drone.
No sooner did the call come in than the drone was airborne and Brossart’s precise location was pinpointed with laser-guided accuracy. The machine-gun toting SWAT officers rushed in, tased then arrested Brossart on various charges including terrorizing a sheriff, and the rest is history. Literally.
As the matter proceeds through the legal system, Bruce Quick, the lawyer representing Brossart, is decrying the “guerilla-like police tactics” used to track and capture his client, as well as the alleged violation of the Fourth Amendment’s protection against unwarranted searches and seizures.
While the police admittedly possessed an apparently valid search warrant, Quick asserts that no such judicial go-ahead was sought or obtained for the use of the Predator to track the suspect. Therein lies the constitutional rub.
In an interview with the press before the trial began, Quick claimed that the police exceeded their authority in several instances, especially when they decided to go around the Fourth Amendment and illegally search Brossart’s farm.
"The whole thing is full of constitutional violations," he declared.
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