Law enforcement technology has come a long way from police radios, introduced in the 1930s, which revolutionized the effectiveness of dispatching officers to the scene.
Fast forward to today. DNA analysis, surveillance software, facial recognition technology, and data-driven approaches target areas where crime is likely.
However, technology opens new areas for challenging a prosecutor’s case against a criminal defendant.
Technology in Law Enforcement
Advanced detection technologies are advertised as invaluable tools to keep the public safe and make law enforcement agencies more efficient.
Police are using crime mapping and predictive policing technology to estimate where crime can occur, ensuring an additional police presence.
The latest technology offers drones, live-streaming cameras, gunshot-detection systems, facial recognition software, and license plate-reading cameras.
A PTZ or pan/tilt/zoom camera can be installed at a location where alleged drug dealers are gathering.
Fewer people officers are needed to combat crime when they turn to intelligence-led policing (ILP) in a real-time crime center, or RTCC, which centralizes the technology so law enforcement can cover many areas at once.
Instead of manually combing through thousands of images and footage to identify a potential suspect, Facial Recognition Technology uses facial images and biometric profiles to find suspects.
Impacting Defense Strategies
Data-driven technology threatens public privacy and has been shown to impact communities of color disproportionately in several ways.
Training –Defense counsel should insist that prosecutors identify the policing technology used to gather evidence against the defendant. Defense counsel then has the time to challenge and interpret the data. Defense lawyers must be trained by police on data-driven technology and have access to experts who can interpret the technology and consult on a defense strategy.
Training also necessitates public defenders being given the resources to ensure their client’s civil rights are not violated.
Facial Recognition – The National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers (NACDL) opposes the use of electronic surveillance, data policing, and predictive criminal models because they allegedly subject defendants to an increase in racial profiling of individuals in communities of color.
Technical inaccuracies are systemic in facial recognition software, especially for marginalized communities. Darker-skinned people had a misclassification rate of 20-34 percent compared to light-skinned individuals. The questions regarding accuracy are exacerbated when the software industry lacks transparency.
The defense team must challenge the tech company’s “trade secrets” assertion to keep evidence secret before trial and to deny discovery requests and subpoenas. These companies must disclose the scope of the use of the technology and be subjected to validation studies.
Probable Cause – The Fourth Amendment to the Constitution prevents the government from conducting an “unreasonable” search without probable cause. Still, with ALPR technology (automated license plate recognition) and surveillance providing law enforcement with a hotlist of vehicles associated with crime, where is probable cause?
Where is the probable cause when video surveillance identifies a suspected criminal in a group?
Due Process – The Fifth and Fourteenth Amendments require due process by prosecutors, and the defense must insist that due process is guaranteed in the presence of databases that collect information on civilians. In the case of any question, the defense strategy should challenge the defendant’s inclusion in the database and the interpretation of the data.
Defense counsel can also question the prosecution when common sense tried-and-true police techniques take a back seat to data.
Your Alabama Criminal Defense Attorney
We are entering a new era where fundamental rights to privacy and the use of surveillance guardrails must be reinforced. The use of technology is not unlimited. Artificial intelligence (AI) is in its infancy and will undoubtedly be increasingly used to aid law enforcement in surveilling the public.
The burden of proof in a criminal case is on the prosecution, and Criminal Defense Attorney Jason Darley understands the evidence must prove guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.
He is experienced in challenging the technology used to make a case against criminal defendant suspects. Let Mr. Darley review your criminal charges in a complimentary consultation to explore how he can fight for your rights. Call his Mobile office at (251) 441-7772 to begin the conversation.