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Orlando Criminal Defense Lawyer > Blog > Juvenile Crime > Is “ShotSpotter” Technology Considered Valid Evidence in a Florida Criminal Case?

Is “ShotSpotter” Technology Considered Valid Evidence in a Florida Criminal Case?


The tech industry has always operated under a “move fast and break things” mentality. This approach can lead to problems when it comes to the use of new technology in law enforcement, however, where the appearance of objectivity can mask serious problems that may affect the rights of people accused of criminal offenses. In the worst cases, technology can even help the police to manufacture evidence against innocent people.

Florida Appeals Court Upholds Use of ShotSpotter in Juvenile Firearms Prosecution

One example of new technology leading to controversy in criminal defense circles is ShotSpotter. Developed and sold by California-based SoundThinking. Inc., ShotSpotter is a technology that purports to help police identify the locations of gunshot fire in real time. The basic concept is that ShotSpotter blankets a given area with microphones and that using two different techniques, the system can identify likely gunfire and calculate its source.

According to SoundThinking, ShotSpotter is currently used in “more than 85 cities across the United States and one city in South Africa” and is “highly regarded by law enforcement agencies as a critical component in their gun violence prevention and reduction strategies.” But a 2021 study released by the MacArthur Justice Center at Northwestern University in Chicago challenged SoundThinking’s blanket statements regarding its technology’s effectiveness. MacArthur reviewed the use of ShotSpotter over a 21-month period in Chicago and found that the technology mostly produced false alarms. Indeed, MacArthur said that 89 percent of ShotSpotter deployments “turned up no gun-related crime” and 86 percent found there was no crime of any kind.

At the same time, MacArthur noted, Chicago only deployed ShotSpotter in police districts with a high proportion of Black and Latinx residents, which only exacerbated racial bias in the city’s overall policing and placed residents in danger of overly aggressive police response to non-existent criminal activity.

That said, many courts continue to consider ShotSpotter evidence as credible and reliable evidence in criminal cases. Just recently, a Florida appeals court upheld a juvenile delinquency finding in a case that relied on ShotSpotter. In this case, JAR v. State, ShotSpotter alerted police in Riviera Beach, Florida, to a possible gunshot fire. Using surveillance cameras, officers identified two men “walking from the immediate area of the alert.” The officers saw “bulges” in the pockets of one of the men–the defendant–which led police to suspect he was carrying a firearm. The officer then detained and searched the defendant, revealing a firearm and ammunition.

The state charged the defendant as a juvenile with carrying a concealed firearm and possession of a firearm by a minor. At trial, a SoundThinking employee testified as an expert witness for the state on the use of ShotSpotter. The defense moved to exclude the testimony. The judge denied the motion and ultimately issued a decision placing the defendant on probation.

On appeal, the defendant again challenged the SoundThinking employee’s qualifications to testify as an expert witness. The Florida Fourth District Court of Appeal affirmed the trial court’s decision, however, noting that “other jurisdictions have determined that ShotSpotter technology is reliable and consequently have denied pretrial motions in limine.”

Contact the Joshi Law Firm

If your child is facing a delinquency proceeding over an alleged violation of the law, it is essential that you seek advice and representation from a qualified Orlando juvenile crimes lawyer. Contact the Joshi Law Firm, PA, today at 407-661-1109 to schedule a free consultation.





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