Can North Carolina Police Use Facial Recognition to Make Arrests?

Charlotte DWI Lawyer Brad Smith answers the question: “Can the police search my car without a warrant?”


It may seem that facial recognition is everywhere in the 21st century. The technology that can identify a person by comparing an image of his or her face to a database of photos and videos is used by airports, police departments, and even your phone.

face-scan-Charlotte-Mooresville-Monroe-Criminal-Defense-Lawyer-212x300Airports use facial recognition to allow passengers to board a flight without having to scan their boarding pass, while police departments use this advanced technology to locate and arrest suspects who may have committed crimes. Your cellphone, meanwhile, uses facial recognition technology to unlock itself.

Technology is changing faster than lawmakers and regulators can catch up with it, and facial recognition is no exception, which is why the laws surrounding the use of the hot new technology are constantly changing.


Can North Carolina Police Use Facial Recognition to Arrest People?

  • What about the use of facial recognition in police departments?
  • Can police in North Carolina use the technology to arrest people?

That depends on the municipality and city the police department is as well as the type of technology used.

In fact, police departments in North Carolina are cutting back on the use of facial recognition technology amid ever-rising concerns about privacy. In February 2020, the Raleigh police department stated that it had stopped using facial recognition to identify suspects and make arrests. The decision came following a controversy that the department was using a facial recognition app to gather pictures from social media sites to identify suspects.

That same month, the Durham Police Department insisted that it did not rely on any form of facial recognition technology to arrest people. As police departments in North Carolina are cutting back on using facial recognition apps, whether police in the state can use the technology depends on the municipality and city.


DMV in North Carolina Uses Facial Recognition

While a police department in North Carolina may not use facial recognition itself, it does send photos of suspects to the Department of Motor Vehicles. The DMV, in turn, does use the technology to identify suspects and find a match in its database of driver licenses.

Typically, police departments send photos of suspects to the DMV, which, in turn, notifies the police if it has found a match.


The FBI Also Use Facial Recognition

The DMV is not the only agency that can use facial recognition. The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) has a unit dedicated to facial recognition searches based on mug shots, ID photos, driver’s licenses, and other pictures. The unit is called the Facial Analysis, Comparison, and Evaluation (FACE) Services.

However, the FACE unit can run facial recognition searches only if the state authorizes access to its records. North Carolina is one of the handful states that do allow the FBI to access its records to use facial recognition.

Although the FBI’s use of facial recognition may not impact state criminal charges such as DWI/DUI, it does affect federal charges, including drug crimes charged as a federal offense.

While many police departments in North Carolina refrain from using facial recognition technology to locate and arrest people, some use the technology to substantiate the evidence against criminal suspects. If the evidence against you was gathered through a facial recognition app in North Carolina, contact a Charlotte criminal defense attorney. You need a convincing criminal defense strategy to protect your privacy rights. Call our lawyers at Arnold & Smith, PLLC, at (704) 370-2828 to evaluate your options or fill out our contact form. Now taking cases throughout North Carolina with offices in Uptown Charlotte, Mooresville and Monroe.







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