Two anti-war protestors were convicted of trespassing at a federal facility in central Missouri where unmanned military drones are stored. The anti-conflict activists were found guilty of the misdemeanor charges during a hearing in earlier this month, and sentencing is slated to occur at an undisclosed later date.

Incident reports show that the men were arrested after they chose to enter a restricted area on the base. They were with more than 40 other demonstrators at Missouri's Whiteman Air Force Base.

Even though the crimes were only misdemeanors, they carry potential prison sentences. The two men involved in this protest could serve as long as six months in jail and a third protestor is currently serving a four-month sentence in connection with the incident.

The two men had attempted to use the hearing as a political platform for protesting the American government's use of unmanned war planes, many of which are operated at Whitman Air Force Base, where they staged their protest. The use of unmanned aerial vehicles has become a common point of contention among many activists.

Although the defendants attempted to exercise their First Amendment rights to free speech and expression, the judge did not agree with their assertion that their right to protest was more important than the trespassing rules associated with the military base. One of the men has been arrested more than 100 times in connection with various protesting activities, and he decided to represent himself. Without full knowledge of their legal rights, or someone to make sure they are upheld, a person can be treated unjustly during the legal process.

The other defendant, a 69-year-old retired minister, had compared the drone usage to premeditated murder, which is inherently unethical. Unfortunately, the protesters' defense came up short, as the court handed down convictions.

As the sentencing phase approaches, it is valuable to understand that the sentencing phase of a criminal trial is just as important as all the preceding steps in the process. When someone is convicted of a crime, they still deserve to be treated fairly and receive a sentence that matches the magnitude of the suspected incident. It does not appear as though the two men in question intended to do any harm to others by trespassing, so they may be sentenced accordingly.

Source: St. Louis Post-Dispatch, "Mo. drone protestors found guilty of trespassing," Sep. 10, 2012