Saturday, March 27, 2010

GPS evidence – The Reliability of GPS evidence vs. Other Forms of Forensic Evidence


Since I started this blog, I have maintained that the quality of GPS evidence is as good as or better than most forms of forensic evidence available for the prosecution of crimes. Now, it appears that the other kinds of forensic evidence that juries have accepted for years have proof of guilt beyond a reasonable doubt are themselves und

er question.



In Strengthening Forensic Science in the United States: A Path Forward (2009), the National Academy of Sciences was asked review all forms of forensic evidence to determine their reliability in the courtroom. The 212 page report resulted from that review is called into question the following evidence procedures and types:

  • Fingerprints – according to popular science “in one recent experiment, veteran examiners looking twice at the same print came to different conclusions each time.”(Popular Science, Reasonable doubt, August 2009, page 47)

  • Ballistics – “... the Detroit Police Department crime lab was shut down after an audit by the state of Michigan found a 10% error rate in ballistic identification.” (Id. , page 49)

  • trace evidence – “”Current methodology is only sufficient to conclude that fibers could have come from the same type of garment or carpet”(Id. Page 50, emphasis added)

  • biological evidence--(Excluding DNA evidence) – testing biological evidence that does not have DNA available and it In trying to match it is difficult and error as possible. For instance “one FBI study found a 12.5% error rate” for attempts to match hairs is using subjective analysis.

Despite the mandate to review the reliability of all types of scientific forensic evidence, And the ability of the National Academy of Sciences to comment on all types of forensic evidence, The words “GPS” only appear three times in the entire 212 pages, only in passing. Nowhere does report criticized the reliability of GPS or the quality of the evidence it produces. Conclusion: GPS evidence is forensically reliable and high quality.




What is the import of this report? If the types of forensic evidence police have been relying on for years are now in question, what kind of evidence can they rely on to convict the guilty and exonerate the innocent? Answer: GPS evidence.


If GPS evidence can fill the void left by more traditional forms of forensic evidence, legislators, prosecutors and yes, public defenders need to support its use in the interest of justice. As I stated in a recent post, The Economics of GPS evidence, GPS evidence is not only highly convincing evidence, it is highly economical evidence. With tightening budgets and less resources, law enforcement must use every means possible to economically prosecute crimes. GPS evidence can be important addition to traditional forms of evidence. And now, where those forms of evidence might be in doubt, GPS evidence they actually replace those forms of evidence, or confirm their accuracy.

There's no question that the burden of proof beyond a reasonable doubt is a high standard. Given recent studies that raise doubts about traditional forms of evidence, it is clear that many forms of evidence may have to be used to convict a single crime. GPS evidence might confirm fingerprint evidence, and fingerprint evidence might back up DNA evidence. GPS evidence is particularly useful in that, as I have said, GPS evidence doesn’t answer any question or point any fingers, it simply raises the kind of questions the guilty can’t answer but the innocent can easily answer.