- The Washington Times - Thursday, January 30, 2014

California lawmakers are debating a bill that would ban warrantless drone surveillance — a measure that comes just as the nation saw its first American convicted of a crime based on video supplied in court by an unmanned aircraft.

The bill passed the California assembly on Wednesday with a 59-5 majority, Reuters reported. It basically mandates that any police, firefighting or other investigative bodies must obtain a warrant before letting loose the drones for surveillance purposes.

Lawmakers are debating the bill, even as they’re trying to make California the No. 1 spot for companies that develop and manufacture drones to locate.

“While we as a legislature and as a state try to attract the jobs in aviation, we also have to balance the growing concern about unmanned vehicles,” the bill’s sponsor, Jeff Gorell, told Reuters.

Just this week, a court sentenced a North Dakota farmer, Rodney Brossart, to three years — with all but six months suspended — in jail for charges related to a standoff he had with police who were investigating a reported cow theft.

Brossart was found not guilty of theft, but video obtained from a dispatched surveillance drone was used in court to convict him of terrorizing charges stemming from his armed standoff with police on his own property. The ruling was historical in that no American has ever been convicted by evidence compiled by a warrantless drone.

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