Dewey faced stalking charges brought by the Morton County Sheriff’s Office after he flew his drone over two hired security officers, reportedly trying to obtain images of their faces and license plate numbers. While some argued that security workers parking their cars on the side of the road could have no reasonable expectation of privacy, the Sheriff’s office pursued the charge.
Dewey, journalist and owner of Digital Smoke Signals, rose to national prominence last year while documenting the protest movement in the face of objections from law enforcement and extreme conditions in the protest camp. Providing regular updates, Dewey and other drone operators documented water attacks in freezing weather and gunfire aimed at the drones. The issue of drones over the protests became controversial when the FAA declared a TFR over the protest site, effectively eliminating independent journalists from documenting events from the air.
Dewey pleaded not guilty to the misdemeanor stalking charge, saying that he was simply trying to document illegal security workers. The Bismark Tribune reports that Morton County Assistant State’s Attorney Brian Grosinger wrote that the charges were dropped because the Judge ruled to suppress evidence taken from the drone. “Judge Allan Schmalenberger wrote in an order on July 5 that the prosecutors did not provide enough evidence that search and seizure of the unmanned aerial device was legal,” says the Tribune.
“Although the state asserts reasons in their brief, they submit no competent evidence to support it,” the Judge wrote.
“I did not give consent to any officer permitting them to seize my drone and controller; when I saw that they were seizing my property, I objected repeatedly to their seizing my property without a warrant,” Dewey wrote in an affidavit.
“Tough times create tough people,” says Dewey in a thank you video to his supporters. “And tough people outlive those tough times.”
Miriam McNabb is the Editor-in-Chief of DRONELIFE and CEO of JobForDrones, a professional drone services marketplace, and a fascinated observer of the emerging drone industry and the regulatory environment for drones. Miriam has a degree from the University of Chicago and over 20 years of experience in high tech sales and marketing for new technologies.
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