In this era of rapid change, technological progress is affecting nearly every aspect of our lives. One such area that is being influenced by technology is the justice system, although the change is not all good. While forensics experts have more technology at their disposal, criminals also have new ways to hide evidence from police.
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One technology that has already been developed is DNA sequencing, allowing investigators to determine whether or not a person was at the scene of a crime. A small amount of bodily fluid or even a hair or nail is enough to accurately identify an individual. DNA science has been influential in catching rapists as well as clearing people who were wrongly accused decades before DNA sequencing was available.
A new technology that has been gaining traction is computer facial recognition. By measuring the height and width of a person’s face, as well as other measurements like the distance between the eyes, a computer can establish a set of dimensions that can then be matched against a database of known suspects. This technology is still new, but has been receiving a large amount of research funding and is beginning to be used in investigations.
As seen with the Mindset Consulting Group and new brain research techniques, a new field of forensic psychology is beginning to emerge. By understanding more about how the brain works, psychology experts can help establish motive for a crime. This is somewhat controversial, but with assistance from psychiatric legal expert witnesses, many prosecutors have successfully built cases on forensic psychology.
Not all of the technology is good for law enforcement. One example is the growing availability of strong encryption, which can be used by criminals to hide digital evidence. With high-quality encryption, even forensics experts are unable to access the encrypted data. A growing area of interest among legal scholars is determining under what circumstances a warrant can be used to force a person to decrypt data for an investigation. Balancing the need for legitimate security, with the ability for law enforcement to solve crimes will be a challenge for the justice system in the years to come.
Those are just some of the ways in which technology is changing the justice system. With more powerful technology than ever before, law enforcement has more power to track down and capture criminals. But that, combined with the need for security, will create unique challenges for judges, juries, and investigators.
By Brooke Chaplan