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Emerging Technology in Criminal Justice

Paper Outline

Advantages of Emerging Technologies in Criminal Justice

III. Disadvantages of Emerging Technologies in Criminal Justice

Case where the use of the computer was beneficial to the prosecution in a criminal case.
Case where the computer was used to aid in the commission of a crime.


Emerging Technologies in Criminal Justice
Up to 1960s, criminal justice institutions were left behind in adopting new technologies. However, in the two decades that followed, there was a transformation in every component of the criminal justice system. Technology has been used to detect and prevent crime, for instance in forensic accounting, forensic engineering, DNA analysis and tool mark identification techniques in cases involving firearms. Since the time investigators embraced technology, scientific evidence has gained ground in courtrooms and seems to be providing strong evidence (OTA, 1989).
Technology in criminal investigation has helped in comparing crime scene DNA to known samples obtained from victims or suspects which can be instrumental in the resolution of felony crimes (Lazer, 1989). Police have been able to monitor crime trends and hence predict future crime incidents by using a technique known as spatial mapping. In some cases, forensic engineering can be used in a tragedy scene such as building collapses or explosions to establish whether it happened accidentally or was planned (Bradley, 2004). Lastly, criminal justice agencies are able to collect large amounts of information in their databases which enable them to share data. They have also created websites through which the public can share crime information.
Technology in criminal investigation has disadvantages such as intrusion into people’s privacy. For instance some of the scanners used to check illegal items can penetrate through clothes and expose someone’s nakedness. Secondly it is hard to determine the admissibility of scientific evidence into a courtroom since there is no clear standard to determine which evidence can be accepted into the courtroom and which one cannot (Bradley, 2004). This is a major challenge to investigators because sometimes a suspect can challenge the validity of the evidence and hence defeat the prosecution. Thirdly, computer hackers can accidentally or intentionally access electronic data or worse still someone can send a virus to the storage and destroy the files (Bradley, 2004).
Computers have been beneficial in prosecution of criminal cases. For instance on February 20, 1978, a 48-year-old woman, Miriam Slamovic, encountered a burglar in the bedroom of her San Francisco home. The intruder shot her in the face and she later died. In 1984, the city of San Francisco installed a new Integrated Fingerprint Identification System. The investigators tested the latent prints of Mrs. Slamovic’s killer, and once fed into the computer a match of Leoncio Saulney’s finger prints was found. When confronted with the fingerprint evidence he confessed to the crime and pled guilty to first degree of murder (U.S Congress, Office of Technology Assessment,1988).
There have been situations where computers have enabled commission of crimes. For instance, cellular fraud is common with a good example being the January 9, 1996 case where cloned mobile phones were used to make calls leading to fraud worth many dollars. The United States secret service helped in unearthing this crime where the suspects had links with South America (All Business, 1999).
In conclusion, technology has greatly enhanced criminal investigation such that tests can be done on crime scene samples acquired many years ago and still find required results. Evidence can still be obtained where no witness exists through DNA tests and databases can be used to store and share large amounts of information among Criminal Justice Agencies. On the other hand, technology has its dark side in crime investigation more so by causing gross violation of human privacy. In spite of these underlying disadvantages, technology is a major boost to law enforcement agencies. However, much caution should be taken while using technology to avoid excessive violation of human rights such as control of ones behavior using machines.

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