An unmanned surveillance aircraft used to recover stolen cattle is raising questions regarding the legality of police using equipment unavailable to civilians.
Rodney Brossart, Lakota, N.D., was arrested in June when he refused to return cattle that entered his property, now his lawyer is says police using the drone violated Brossart’s Fourth Amendment rights.
U.S. News reports a SWAT team used the pilotless drone to determine Brossart’s location in a 16-hour standoff. At Brossart’s farm, the alleged cattle thief’s three sons brandished long guns while his daughter assaulted an officer. Officers used the drone to determine if an arrest could be made without threatening the safety of anyone involved. The drone was borrowed from the Department of Homeland Security.
Brossart’s lawyer, Bruce Quick, said the drone was "dispatched without judicial approval or a warrant."
According to INFORUM, Quick’s motion cites a 2001 case arguing the “Supreme Court held that obtaining information by sense enhancing technology not available for general public will be subject to constitutional protections against unreasonable searches and seizures.” Quick disputes the use of the drone as technology not available to the general public.
Both sides in the issue agree manned aerial surveillance has not been found to violate Fourth Amendment rights, but this case may set a precedent for the way law enforcement uses unmanned surveillance equipment.
Brossart’s case goes to trial in June.