The Appellate Division of the Superior Court of New Jersey recently affirmed that New Jerseyans have due process rights when they are subjected to the use of facial recognition technology by law enforcement. The case, State v. Arteaga, concerned a man who was identified as the suspect of a crime only after a local NJ police department fed surveillance video of a crime scene through the New York Police Department’s facial recognition system. Prosecutors refused to disclose information about how that system worked, the systems’ propensity for error or bias, or even the name of the system itself. The Appellate Division held that this failure to share information about how the system can misidentify suspects deprived Mr. Arteaga of his constitutional right to challenge the “novel and untested” police tools that inculpated him. 

The New Jersey Office of the Public Defender represented Mr. Arteaga. The ACLU of New Jersey appeared as a friend-of-the-court with the national ACLU and the Innocence Project to argue that the rights of the accused do not disappear when law enforcement uses facial recognition. 

ACLU of New Jersey Staff Attorney Dillon Reisman, released the following statement: 

“Today, the Appellate Division became one of the first courts in the country to recognize that the constitution protects the rights of people accused of crimes through untested and potentially-flawed facial recognition technology. 

“In a growing number of cases, inaccurate and biased facial recognition technology has led police departments to throw the wrong person in jail with no accountability. Because facial recognition systems frequently perform worse at identifying people with darker skin, New Jersey’s overpoliced communities of color bear the risk of misidentification at a disproportionate rate. Today’s court decision is an important step to holding the government accountable when it uses biased and harmful surveillance technologies like facial recognition.” 

Innocence Project Senior Staff Attorney, Strategic Litigation, Tania Brief, released the following statement: 

"In thirty years of work freeing the innocent and challenging injustice, flawed forensic evidence has contributed to more than half of the wrongful convictions of clients. It is therefore vital that the defense have the opportunity to analyze and test the reliability and scientific validity of any forensic method before it is used to criminally prosecute someone. The court's decision rightly declines to make an exception for emerging technology."