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Overview: Artificial Intelligence & The Criminal Justice System

Published on : 06 Dec 2020

Artificial Intelligence & The Criminal Justice System


As Stephen Hawking once said, Artificial Intelligence is either the best or the worst thing to happen to humanity.” The fact that the system is constantly evolving and learning from our routine behavior allows it to adapt and become a sophisticated technology that has the potential to replace several mundane tasks that are being done by humans today. For instance, many tech-savvy organizations are using Artificial Intelligence (AI) to carry out repetitive administrative tasks such as HR, IT, Marketing etc. while this move is fruitful for the company in terms of reduced human labor and increased efficiency, it is detrimental to humans with the relevant skills being replaced by such systems. The point here being, there are various pros and cons of using artificial intelligence in every field. 

From Terminator to Robocop, the idea of crime-fighting robots has been embedded in our minds, and its practical application would just be so profound. With the advent of AI in our daily lives, what seemed like a futuristic thought is now coming to life. The criminal justice system is increasingly turning to Artificial intelligence to elevate their law enforcement agencies and officers. The most popular use of artificial intelligence is in identifying traffic and safety violations and enforcing rules and regulations thereof; it also helps in identifying repeat offenders in that respect. Apart from using AI for identifying traffic violations, this system is also used for investigative purposes, which entails, surveillance, facial recognition etc. 

One such case of success of AI in law enforcement was seen in China, wherein, a suspect was caught by police officials at a pop concert containing around 60,000 people. His attempts to blend in with the crowd failed and was taken by surprise as he was identified at the ticket counter by a facial recognition system. 

The primary goal of law enforcement may be realized by intelligent systems that assure safety and security, further working towards solving and deterring crime. With the rise of artificial intelligence, police officers all over the world are relying on this technology to facilitate police work; however, artificial intelligence though beneficial, must be kept in check considering the risks that come along with it. 

This article focuses on both the positive and the negative impact that AI may have on the criminal justice system. 

Advantages of Use 

The ability of a machine to respond to its external environment without human intervention is a feat in itself. This facet of human intelligence that is inculcated by the artificial intelligence system will serve highly advantageous and allow AI to be integrated permanently in our criminal justice system.

Minimizes threat to life

Despite AI being in its primitive stages of use in many countries in the world, it does have the potential of becoming an integral part of maintaining public safety. In case of high profile and dangerous cases, wherein the suspect is armed with a weapon, there is an impending threat to human life, however, using AI in such cases can ensure that this threat is minimized, if not completely eradicated. 

Video and imaging analysis

It is mammalian nature to feel tired and fatigued. This nature, therefore, sets us apart from artificial intelligence, in the sense that, while examining large amounts of video or image data there is a high possibility of error that can be prevented by the use of machines. Further, the adaptive feature of AI allows it to distinguish between facial features and behavior once an algorithm with that respect is fed into the system. For example, this AI system would be specifically useful in identifying a repeat offender in case of theft and robbery. 

Not only does AI reduce and eliminate errors, but it also improves data collection in terms of speed, quality and specificity.  

Further, along with analyzing videos and images, AI can also analyze sounds. For instance, if a gunshot is fired, depending on the quality of the sound, AI may be able to specifically point out the exact weapon used and estimate the caliber of the bullet fired. 

This basically then allows the police officials to respond to the scene of the crime faster. 

Forensic Analysis 

Another aspect of law enforcement is the one associated with the collection and analysis of evidence. In many cases of violent crimes, especially before the development of advanced DNA collection and analysis techniques, it was very difficult to get a perfect match on the evidence collected by reason of it being too minuscule, tarnished or unviable. The challenges that such collection of evidence poses can be addressed by AI, in the sense that, sensitivity to data collection and processing of large amounts of complex data can be expedited. Along with collection and analysis of evidence, AI can also allow the creation of advanced systems for conducting an autopsy and determine the cause of death with ease. 

Predictive Analysis

In the law enforcement profession, police officers, investigators etc. spend years and years gaining expertise, only then are they able to anticipate the commission of a crime. However, AI in this department would facilitate in forecasting a crime based on the behavior of an individual within the environment under surveillance. Its adaptive nature can also help in predicting whether or not a criminal would revert to his criminal past or be reformed after serving a sentence. This predictive analysis system can help curb terrorist activities, transportation of illegal goods and human trafficking activities, among many others. 

Accuracy of Judicial Decisions 

In the case of pronouncement of judicial decisions, the predictive nature of AI may come in handy. The fact that AI can assess the risks involved with the alleged offender with respect to criminal recidivism and appearance in court may allow judges to impose stricter conditions or even relax release conditions. This system would work by analyzing, the number of offenses, the number of times the offender has committed the same offense and the number of times that he has failed to appear in court. 

Associated Risks of Use 

Artificial intelligence comes with its fair share of risks; it is more or less a double-edged sword. On the one hand, it facilitates ease of access to the law enforcement department; on the other hand, it allows criminals to fashion new ways of committing crimes. 

Criminals are no strangers to technology, from the exploitation of cryptocurrencies to hacking into GPS and mobile systems. With growth and development in artificial intelligence, threats to internal and external security also increases. Therefore, law enforcement must be well- equipped in order to curb the challenges that such technology poses.

The United Nations Interregional Crime and Justice Research Institute identified three basic dangers associated with artificial intelligence; physical attacks, digital attacks and political attacks. 

Physical attacks are those that are associated with data poisoning, smuggling contraband through the use of drones and using armed drones that use face recognition to physically attack the target. 

Digital attacks can range from data phishing and exploiting security systems and vulnerable online data. 

Political Attacks are associated with infiltrating media and news portals to spread fake news which would potentially cause conflict. Moreover, political attacks on political figures by way of manipulating audio and video material that can cause detriment to the reputation of the political figure before the public.  

A major threat is also associated with the use of arms and weapons. The fact that AI can be used to create smart weapons of mass destruction for criminal and terrorist activities is a big threat to the safety and security at a global level. An instance of the use of AI for terrorist activities was seen in the case of a planned attack on the Japanese Prime Minister, wherein, a drone was sent by the Islamic State of Iraq and Levant (ISIL), set to land on the roof of his office with an aerial unmanned explosive device.

Further, it is also important to note that AI is merely a machine that has been fed an algorithm; therefore, it is objective in nature. To clearly analyze the possibility of an offender reverting to crime, a subjective view needs to be taken; hence, with respect to predictive analysis in case of a court hearing or otherwise, it can lead to discrimination in the criminal justice system. 

Artificial Intelligence in the UAE

The UAE has, since time immemorial, been constantly adapting and using the latest technologies in all aspects of life, to the point where it is now considered to be a technological hub. To further this reputation, the UAE has come up with a roadmap to integrate artificial intelligence into the economic and government system to promote growth and opportunities. 

A national program for artificial intelligence has been set up by the UAE to achieve this end. Its vision to become a world leader through the national use of AI is projected to be realized by the year 2031. The National AI Strategy 2031, aims to achieve an AI friendly ecosystem in its governance at all levels, education, financial services and economic sector. 

In 2018, the Dubai Police launched a surveillance system called Oyoon that translates to eyes in Arabic. This surveillance system aims to monitor individuals or vehicles through a wide network of cameras, and this surveillance system basically aims to predict crime by raising any red flags identified in the environment with reference to the database that has already been fed to the system. This system allowed the arrest of around 300 suspects in the year 2018. 

As per recent reports, the Dubai Police is working with IBM and Google to develop AI technology under its Smart Dubai 2021 initiative that would create a robot police force that would take the edge off the human police force in terms of patrolling residential areas and other public spaces. This real-life Robo Cop is said to be equipped with live imaging, facial recognition and a system for reporting crime. 

The development of AI is still at the primitive stage; therefore, no legislations have been enacted to regulate that sector. However, the Ministry of Artificial Intelligence is said to develop legislations and frameworks that will regulate technologies in government and federal institutions. 

Artificial Intelligence in the MENA Region 

Apart from its growth in the UAE, many other countries in the Middle East and North Africa region are adopting artificial intelligence in their governance and justice system. The use of AI is quite recent; therefore, not many developments have been made in that respect. But, these countries have started to take steps to integrate AI and look towards the creation of smart cities. 


As a step towards achieving their 2030 Vision, the Information and Government Authority of Bahrain organized a two-day event in 2018 for establishing and recognizing the importance of AI in developing smart cities as per the country’s planning document. 


The Egyptian Authority of Finance Control has laid down provisions to control financial transactions using AI. Further, the Egyptian National Telecom Authority aims to explore interconnectivity through the use of AI. 

Saudi Arabia 

KSA has also taken steps to include AI in its strategic planning document as part of their Vision of 2030. It has already started using AI for the purpose of Investment. It also attended the Conference on Artificial Intelligence and Robotics in 2017, though it has not seen much light in the law enforcement sector, Saudi is slowly inching towards its usage by beginning work on smart cities industrial zones.  

Many more countries in the region as well as all over the world are adopting AI as a part of creating a smarter and futuristic nation in different sectors, therefore, enhancing and paving the way for a cohesive criminal justice ecosystem. 


Although the use of artificial intelligence is in its primitive stages, its future seems bright, provided it is used in an ethical manner. Further, the law enforcement community might not be well versed with technology; therefore, the implementation of the AI system needs to be gradual. Once law enforcement officials are able to gradually familiarize themselves with the technology, its use will become efficient and effective. 

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