Is Facial Recognition Software a Reliable form of Evidence in a Massachusetts Criminal Trial?

When investigating crimes in Massachusetts, law enforcement officers rely on a variety of methods. In most cases, police rely on statements from the alleged victim, physical evidence they gathered from the scene, video surveillance, and a host of other types of tactics. However, what can police officers do if no one recognized the suspect? A video is useless if there is no one to compare it to, and without a name, police may run into a dead-end.

In situations like the one described above, police may rely on newly-available facial recognition software to identify a suspect. Facial recognition software allows law enforcement officers to put a suspect’s picture into the program, and compares the photo to thousands of others in a database, looking for a match. While this may sound like it would work well in theory, in practice, facial recognition software has been responsible for several recent wrongful arrests, and an unknown number of wrongful convictions. Perhaps most concerning is the fact that facial recognition programs tend to not work as well when attempting to match Black or Asian faces.

According to a recent article by the New York Times, police wrongfully arrested a man after mistakenly believing that he committed a serious crime. According to the article, police responded to a call reporting a man stealing candy from a store. When police arrived, they found the man, who apologized and offered to pay for the items. He gave police his ID; however, when police went back to run it through their system, they realized it was a fake. The man fled, nearly hitting a police officer with his car.

Not knowing who the man was, they ran the picture from the ID he gave them through a facial recognition program. The software returned a match. It was a man who lived about 30 miles away. Police arrested the man, who then spent five days in jail before posting bail.

As it turns out, the man police arrested was not the suspect they were looking for. Upon his release from jail, the man contacted a Western Union, which verified that he was present at one of the company’s branches sending money at the time the crime was committed. The charges were later withdrawn.

This is only the most recent example of the major problems involved with using facial recognition software in the law-enforcement context. Rather than conduct an investigation, police officers merely assumed that the man was the suspect they were looking for because the software identified him as a “hit.”

Have You Been Arrested for a Crime You Did Not Commit?

If you have recently been arrested and charged with a serious crime, your freedom is on the line—regardless of whether you were involved. Attorney Patrick J. Murphy is an experienced criminal defense attorney who aggressively defends clients against all types of crimes, including Massachusetts robbery offenses, violent crimes, and sexual offenses. He has decades of experience handling the toughest cases, working to obtain the best possible results for his clients. To learn more, and to schedule a free consultation with Attorney Murphy, call 617-367-0450, or reach out to him through his online form.

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