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Proposed law addresses the use of facial recognition to solve crimes

On Behalf of | May 18, 2023 | Criminal Defense

There’s no doubt that technological advancements have helped law enforcement agencies. Some of those advancements, many argue, violate people’s constitutional rights. One of these is facial recognition technology.

The federal government has been building a giant facial recognition database for years, with the support of state and local agencies. It’s comprised in large part of people’s driver’s license photos. It’s been called a “perpetual electronic police lineup.” 

Concerns center on the ability of police to compare sketches made from witness accounts or images from surveillance cameras and video footage to photos in a database and the accuracy (or lack of it) in matching them to the correct people. It’s been found to be even less accurate with non-white people. 

One author who’s studied the issue says, “With only a few exceptions, there are no laws governing police use of the technology, no standards ensuring its accuracy, and no systems checking for bias.”

How would the proposed law limit the use of facial recognition technology?

Maryland state lawmakers are considering legislation that would limit the use of facial recognition technology to investigation of only specific offenses, like violent crimes, human trafficking and “circumstances presenting a substantial and ongoing threat to public safety or national security.” It would also require reporting by law enforcement agencies of their use of the technology.

The use of it in arrest and prosecution would also be limited. Establishing “probable cause” to arrest someone would have to include other evidence. There would also be limits on when it can be used in a criminal proceeding. 

The law would also prohibit its use on people “engaged in activity protected under the United States Constitution, the Maryland Constitution, or the Maryland Declaration of Rights” unless law enforcement has reasonable suspicion that someone committed a crim.

The Maryland House of Delegates passed their version of the bill unanimously earlier this year. It’s now under consideration in the Maryland Senate

As facial recognition and other types of technology make their way into law enforcement, it’s critical that anyone who has been charged with a crime have the right to challenge the accuracy and legality of the evidence being used against them. That requires experienced legal guidance.