An important issue to explore in any criminal defense case is whether law enforcement did their job properly, whether they followed the rules, procedures and protocols to which they are bound. These rules are in place not just to ensure uniformity of procedure, but also to ensure criminal suspects’ legal rights are protected and to uphold the integrity of the criminal process.
The technology used in law enforcement is, of course, continuously developing and it typically takes awhile for the law to catch up to emerging policing technologies. An example of this is the 2001 U.S. Supreme Court case, Kyllo v. United States, which ruled that police must obtain a search warrant before using a thermal imaging device on a private home. Prior to the ruling in that case, the technology had been used in law enforcement for a number of years, but it took time for the legal system to clarify the legality of the technology in the context of constitutional law.
One technology which has recently increased in law enforcement across the country is facial recognition technology. Facial recognition, as it is currently practiced, involves the use of computer software to match the faces of criminal suspects with images in a database. The software, according to a recent report coming out of Georgetown University, is currently used in some form in 16 states, including Florida.
In Florida, police are able to run facial recognition searches of driver’s license and ID photos, which number 22 million, as well as 11 million mug shots and other photos. FBI mug shots, amounting to almost 25 million photos, are also searchable. FBI field officers, for their part, are able to search the Pinellas County database, including license and other photo identification. Florida’s database is searched about 8,000 times per month.
In our next post, we’ll continue looking at this topic and some of the concerns it raises with regard to the criminal process.