Berman & Asbel, LLP

Challenging Technology Used in Criminal Cases

Technology is an inexorable part of our lives. But it has its imperfections and can create problems when we rely too heavily on it. Consider the recidivism algorithm called COMPAS that is sold to courts across the country to help determine whether someone will re-offend. Reportedly, it is only accurate 65% of the time.

Where the Technology Is Failing

An article in "Popular Science Magazine" discusses the problems with such algorithms. Essentially, two computer scientists found that the reports courts receive from COMPAS are about as accurate as guesses by random people polled, despite using far more features and data.

They also found that the algorithm showed bias against black defendants. Reportedly, the system was two times more likely to guess incorrectly that black people would reoffend. It also guessed incorrectly that white people would not reoffend more often.

The Limitations of Technology

As the article discusses, these flaws with recidivism prediction technologies do not make them useless, but they are a reminder of technological limitations. When judges have little or nothing else to rely on when assessing a person's recidivism risks, however, they may put too much importance on the seemingly impartial technology.

This is a reason why other factors need to be presented in a person's defense.

What Can Readers Take Away From This Report?

Technology often plays a considerable role in criminal convictions. Think of DNA analyses and identification programs; consider computer and phone records. Each of these tools can have an impact on a person's case. Recidivism algorithms can affect a person's sentence.

Readers should understand the importance of having legal representation when facing criminal charges. An experienced attorney from the law firm of Berman & Asbel, LLP can challenge inadmissible, inaccurate or unproven technologies to avoid criminal convictions and minimize criminal penalties.

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