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Why people want to ban 911-call analysis in criminal court

On Behalf of | Apr 5, 2023 | Criminal Defense

Improved technological access and a better understanding of human psychology inform police investigations and prosecutorial efforts. However, sometimes police departments and prosecutors depend on junk science, which may lead to the prosecution of the wrong people and violations of their rights.

Junk science has historically led to the unreasonable prosecution of those who have not committed crimes. People have even been convicted of wrongdoing that they didn’t commit because the prosecution was able to make the evidence seem credible. There are multiple kinds of questionable science that could potentially contribute to the state’s case against someone and lead to an unfair outcome.

911-call analysis sometimes helps prosecutors to make a claim that someone did something unsafe or possibly illegal. However, there is now a push to ban 911-call analysis, as it is considered junk science by many experts.

How 911-call analysis works

When someone calls to report a crime, they tell first responders about the situation, which leads to the deployment of certain professionals. When prosecutors believe that the person who reported the crime actually committed the crime they will listen to the recording of the 911 call to see if there is information that could prove someone broke the law.

When someone’s words during the call don’t imply their guilt, investigators may start to reach for evidence. 911-call analysis looks at details like tone and pauses, factors that may change for a broad number of reasons. Despite the claims by those who designed and use 911-call analysis techniques, there has never been any research corroborating the accuracy of such systems.

Often, 911-call analysis is largely subjective. Police and prosecutors can ostensibly take an innocent phone call made to save someone’s life and spin the conversation to make it look like it implies someone broke the law.

Recognizing junk science is key to someone’s defense

Those who understand that prosecutors or investigators intend to use scientifically questionable evidence to make a case will have an easier time defending themselves. Expert witnesses could help convince a jury of how 911-call analysis is not a viable reason to convict someone of a criminal offense.

Learning more about the issues that complicate criminal prosecution can help those who have been accused of criminal wrongdoing to plan an effective criminal defense strategy for their situation alongside a seasoned criminal defense professional.

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