Over the years, new technology has played an increasing role in the justice system. For instance, criminal cases used to hinge solely on witness testimony. Today, everything from DNA tests to predictive policing technology can play a role in criminal court.
As exciting as new technologies may be, they are not perfect. And relying too heavily on these new tools can be a mistake.
New technology, old problems
No matter how sophisticated or innovative technological policing solutions may be, they can still present problems when using them in a criminal case.
Those problems include being accurate and being free from biases.
For instance, an article from the Associated Press recently examined a case against a man wrongfully charged with murder based on the evidence generated by a ShotSpotter device. This device uses an algorithm to detect and triangulate the source of a gunshot.
The bulk of the case against the man came from the ShotSpotter data. There were no eyewitnesses, no identified motive and no gun recovered. And criticism of the ShotSpotter technology revealed several issues, from human error interference to an algorithm that has not been peer-reviewed.
The man was later released when a court ruled there was insufficient evidence – but he had already been behind bars for 11 months.
Technology can be a lifesaver when it comes to things like surveillance footage that confirms someone’s alibi or DNA testing used for exclusionary purposes.
However, as this case shows, new technology, in particular, can be rife with inconsistencies and vulnerabilities that affect their efficacy. Further, attempting to use untested or novel solutions can come with legal challenges that draw out the legal process.
When defending against a criminal charge, it is crucial to understand that every piece of evidence warrants challenge, from eyewitness testimony to an algorithmically generated report.
Thus, even if police claim they have proof someone committed a crime or say they have an “open and shut case,” the truth is that every person has the right to defend themselves against charges and question the evidence.
This should also serve as a reminder to consult an attorney right away if you are arrested or worry you may face criminal charges. The attorneys at The Quinn Law Firm are available at 814-833-2222 to discuss your case during a free initial consultation.