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In Florida, Criminal Defendants Can Be Convicted Without First Being Able to Challenge Computer Programs That Falsely Identified Them


The Florida Supreme Court was recently petitioned to address an issue that has long violated the constitutional, due process rights of criminal defendants here in Florida. While in most states, defendants have the right to challenge the accuracy of a face recognition system that leads to criminal charges, in Florida, that has never been the case; all due to a Florida appeals court decision. The stakes are high, especially in an age of quickly evolving police technology. 

The Case

The petition is linked to a case involving a drug-related arrest, whereby undercover police took photos of a suspect with a cellphone; photos that were so poor that they had to be sent to an analyst, who then used a face recognition system that produced several photo matches that could be possible matches, one of which was the suspect eventually charged with the crime. In producing that match, the program also indicated that it had only “one star of confidence” regarding whether it had actually generated the right match. 

The Problems with These Programs

The issues with these face surveillance systems are significant and complex: The algorithms they are based on often produce well-documented, biased, inaccurate results, and are especially prone to producing inaccurate results when there are background, expression, lighting, and/or shadow differences between two photos. In addition, because these algorithms were developed based on a system that contained significantly less diversity than our actual society, they also tend to perform less accurately when it comes to photos of black people and young people, as well as women.

One such system that is currently being marketed by Amazon to police departments, called “Rekognition,” highlights a number of these problems: In a test run involving photos of Congress members, the program not only falsely matched 28 photos, but falsely returned results indicating that 40 percent of them were people of color, while only 20 percent actually were. In other words, the program falsely spits out a higher percentage of ‘suspects‘ that are people of color. 

What Due Process Requires

In the case at hand, in an effort to put together a proper defense, the defendant had requested other booking photos that the algorithm produced, which was denied by the government and court, which is a blatant violation of the defendant’s constitutional rights to information favorable to their case. Specifically, our due process rights mandate that prosecutors provide both defendants and jurors with full access to this kind of information so that their defense can be properly assembled and so that a jury can make an informed decision.

Contact Our Experienced Florida Criminal Defense Attorney to Find Out More

When it comes to being accused of a crime here in Florida, there are simply too many caveats that allow criminal defendants to be deprived of their constitutional rights. If you or a loved one is facing criminal charges, contact the experienced Florida criminal defense attorney at the office of William Wallshein, P.A. today to find out how he can help.




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