Court Upholds First Use Of Drone In Domestic Criminal Arrest
Last year North Dakota had the dubious distinction of being the first state in the union to use an unmanned aerial vehicle, a “drone”, to arrest a US citizen on a domestic criminal charge. In his defense, the defendant Rodney Brossart argued that the government’s use of a drone for surveillance was a breech of his privacy rights.
The court disagreed, ruling the use of the drone proper.
A judge denied a request to dismiss charges Wednesday against Rodney Brossart, a man arrested last year after a 16-hour standoff with police at his Lakota, N.D., ranch. Brossart’s lawyer argued that law enforcement’s “warrantless use of [an] unmanned military-like surveillance aircraft” and “outrageous governmental conduct” warranted dismissal of the case, according to court documents obtained by U.S. News.
District Judge Joel Medd wrote that “there was no improper use of an unmanned aerial vehicle” and that the drone “appears to have had no bearing on these charges being contested here,” according to the documents.
Court records state that last June, six cows wandered onto Brossart’s 3,000 acre farm, about 60 miles west of Grand Forks. Brossart allegedly refused to return the cows, which led to a long, armed standoff with the Grand Forks police department. At some point during the standoff, Homeland Security, through an agreement with local police, offered up the use of an unmanned predator drone, which “was used for surveillance,” according to the court documents.
Grand Forks SWAT team chief Bill Macki said in an interview that the drone was used to ensure Brossart and his family members, who were also charged, didn’t leave the farm and were unarmed during the arresting raid.
I’m not sure that this was ever the best case through which to litigate the privacy issues surrounding the use of drones domestically. By all accounts, it seems the drone wasn’t called in until the police had probable cause to be on Mr. Brossart’s property. The drone wasn’t being used to detect a crime but rather in assistance of law enforcement who already had probable cause to arrest Brossart.
My guess is that this won’t be the last time domestic law enforcement uses drones, and it won’t be the last time their use is challenged in court.Tags: drones, North Dakota News, privacy