How would you feel if you were arrested in your home or registered as a sex offender, not for anything you had done, but because of a malfunction in the computer software used by your local county court? That unlikely nightmare has become a horrifying reality for many people living in Alameda County, California.

County prosecutors and public defenders have filed approximately 2,000 motions in Alameda County Super Court informing the court that many of their clients have been forced to serve unnecessary jail time, improperly arrested, or wrongly registered a sex offenders as a result of buggy software used by the county’s court system. The Alameda County Superior Court recently switched from a decades-old courtroom management software to a modern software known as “Odyssey Court Manager.” Although localities justifiably want  to upgrade to mores secure and easy-to-use computer software, as Alameda County residents are learning the hard way, there are many inherent risks associated with using a newly developed software. It is alleged that glitches in the Odyssey software have led to inaccurate public records stored on the system, which has resulted in these unintended arrests and lengthened detentions.

Odyssey is a courtroom technology developed by Tyler Technologies that is designed to secure and manage highly sensitive data about court cases. The technology is marked as an “efficient,” “seamless,” and “secure” software that can be used to manage all aspects of court administration. The software allows users to quickly calculate fees/fines, generate forms, and locate case information. Odyssey is currently being used in 25 county courts in California—only of few of these courts are criminal courts—and in major counties across the country.

Unfortunately, this is not the first instance of individuals suffering negative consequences in the criminal justice system as a result of Odyssey’s alleged malfunctioning software. In January, a lawsuit was filed in Memphis, Tennessee against Shelby County officials and Tyler Technologies as a result of malfunctions that led to similar results. This lawsuit was the third active Tyler-related suit filed in Shelby County.

In the meantime, the Alameda County Court Executive Officer has stated that going back to the previous software is now impossible. Tyler Technologies has previously stated that it would work with localities that have experienced problems with the software. Nevertheless, there does not seem to be a resolution in sight to guarantee proper functioning of the technology and to protect individuals from being unjustly harmed as a result. In a country where public opinion tends to distrust the criminal justice system—often labeling it as “unfair” or “unjust”—arrests caused by malfunctioning computer software is not doing the criminal justice system any favors.

Donovan Sowder


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *