Historically, the criminal justice system has used the accounts of eye-witnesses and police sketch renderings to get a picture of an unidentified criminal. Even when actual photographs of a perpetrator are available, sometimes throw the police off.

To keep these methods from leading to more false accusations and convictions, experts are testing new ways to get an image of a criminal’s face to catch them quicker. Here are a just a few.

Facial recognition technology

Facial recognition technology is creeping into our daily lives in many ways. The software has been used on social media site, Facebook, to help link users to photos they’re featured in. Another popular social media application, Snapchat, uses facial recognition technology to allow users to place virtual filters overtop of their face in real time. The technology is also being used as a security method. For iPhone X users, their face can be used to gain access to the phone.

Now, police departments want in on the technology to help catch criminals. Ideally, law enforcement officials could use video surveillance footage to look for a wanted person by uploading a picture of the perp to the system’s AI.

However, the technology has been known to make mistakes when it comes to identifying people with dark skin. Statistically, the nation’s mass incarceration is already disproportionately African American. This potential for this error begs the question: Could this technology further encourage this population’s already-existing fear of law enforcement?

Phenotyping

DNA phenotyping is a scientific process that is still in its infancy of development. However, if it can work as experts anticipate, it could drastically improve our ability to identify criminals quickly and easily.

The process is meant to use a person’s DNA information to construct an accurate visual of what that person would look like on a computer screen. Rather than relying on a witness’ memory and/or a police sketch artist’s skill, this system would theoretically construct the exact image of the person based on their genetic code. In addition to eliminating false accusations, this could also substantial appeals.

Discrediting eyewitnesses

People tend to subconsciously fill in the details they missed or forgot while recounting a memory. These reconstructions come from the person’s biases or perceived understanding of the situation. When witnesses don’t have all of the details, their account of a crime can become a completely different story than what actually happened.

And, while security footage can help us gain a clearer understanding, we still face misinterpretation issues because of the lighting, blind spots and quality of the recording. Until we have better tools to identify perpetrators and prove events in the past, it’s important to consult with a legal professional for help if you are accused of a crime.