North Dakota Now Home To America's First Drone Conviction


In the spring of 2012 North Dakota became home to America’s first arrest in which law enforcement used a drone. Now that arrest of Rodney Brossart has resulted in America’s first conviction involving a drone, something many may consider to be an ignominious achievement.

Rodney Brossart, the farmer from North Dakota, was arrested after being located by Predator drone, Forbes reports. Sentenced yesterday, he is the first American to be sent to the clink thanks to drone assistance.

In June 2011, Forbes reports, police attempted to arrest him because he wouldn’t return the three cows that had grazed onto his property. This resulted in “an armed standoff between Brossart, his three sons and a SWAT team” on his property. It ended only after the family of perps was located by a Predator drone borrowed from Customs and Border Patrol.

The courts upheld the use of a drone in Brossart’s arrest, but then the courts tend to uphold a lot of law enforcement tactics that those concerned with privacy might find themselves uncomfortable with. Drones have been used seven other times in law enforcement matters through October of last year.

Right now law enforcement use of drones is a bit of a wild west, with few specific laws governing how cops can and cannot use the technology.

An effort during the legislative session last year by Rep. Rick Becker, R-Bismarck, to implement some guidelines for law enforcement use of drones was steamrolled by a fierce lobbying effort from law enforcement and those concerned that such a law might derail the University of North Dakota’s efforts to be named by the FAA as a UAS test site.

It seems most state leaders have been more concerned with rolling out the red carpet for the drone industry – including millions of taxpayer dollars in incentives – than with getting a grip on what this new technology might mean for issues like privacy and police procedure.

You’d think, in the wake of the NSA leaks, we’d have learned our lesson about that sort of thing.