How Using Speech Imitation Software Wrong Could Get a Person Thrown in Jail

There is new speech imitation software being created that is making voice cloning easier to do while sounding more realistic. Users beware: certain uses of speech imitation could get a person thrown in jail.

Speech recognition

Speech Imitation

Photo by: Antonio Silveira

Speech recognition is used by millions of Americans every day. Those from older generations who are not savvy on texting may use speech to easily send messages for them. Others frequently use Siri, Alexa, Samsung’s new Bixby, and Google Assistant to ask questions, get directions, order items, and otherwise include these AI assistants to have an active part in their technological lives. These systems are created to recognize a user’s voice and even adjust to better understand voice patterns. After correctly understanding the user’s speech, these AI assistants answer back in their semi-robotic tones, even going as far as to crack a few AI jokes. Now the speech recognition and computer speaking capabilities have gone to an entirely new level by speaking back to us in our own voices.

Speech imitation software

Photo by: SparkCBC

There have been a few different types of speech imitation software on the market, however none of them compare to what the company Lyrebird is creating. Using AI technology, the Canadian company Lyrebird uses a mere 60 second recording of a person’s voice in order to generate thousands of words and phrases. The troubling difference between these older versions of speech imitation software and those produced by Lyrebird, is the voices produced by Lyrebird sounds more realistic, losing the robotic sounds of other AIs. Already on the heels of Lyrebird are other advanced speech imitation software such as VoCo by Adobe, CandyVoice, and VivoText which plans on letting users choose the level of emotion portrayed through the imitated speech.

Illegal uses of the software

Now that this near flawless speech imitation software is here, imitating the speech of people could give user’s hours of entertainment; however it can also come with legal repercussions as well.

• If speech imitation is used to “expose any other living person to public hatred, contempt, or ridicule” and the person “knowingly communicate[d] to any person orally or in writing any information which he knows to be false” as is stated in Utah Code 76-9-404, the person using the voice cloning technology could end up with a class B misdemeanor charge for criminal defamation.

Photo by: Blogtrepeneur

•Speech imitation software could be used to commit identity fraud. Many security measures use other means of protection besides a password. This can include iris or fingerprint scanners as well as facial recognition or voice bio-metrics security software. Voice cloning could open doors for criminals to obtain private information about others or to gain access to otherwise secured accounts. According to Utah Code 76-6-1102, identity fraud is either a third or second degree felony, depending on “the value of the credit, goods, services, employment, or any other thing of value”.

• One crime that can arise from speech imitation software is impersonation of an officer. Whether done as a joke to scare a friend or for more malicious intent, pretending to be an officer in person or by voice can result in charges. Utah Code 76-8-512 states those guilty of impersonating an officer will face class B misdemeanor charges, punishable by up to six months in jail and a fine up to $1,000.

Photo by: CPOA

• One of the most malevolent ways speech imitation software could be used is by making it sound like someone admitted to committing a crime. If used this way, the person whose voice was imitated may be the one facing criminal charges. Since voice recordings may be used in court unless there is a lack of predicate, an imitated recording of someone confessing to a crime could mean the difference between whether or not someone goes to jail for a crime they didn’t commit.

• All the criminal charges detailed above can also be accompanied by civil charges brought on by the individuals who were victimized by the speech imitation.

Imitate responsibly

As with any technology, users should always follow the guidelines that would accompany speech imitation software and refrain from using the software illegally. For more information on legal ramifications of speech imitation, contact a criminal defense attorney.

Minor Traffic Accident Escalates to Assault with a Vehicle

A minor traffic accident in southern Utah quickly escalated to assault with a vehicle after a driver decided he didn’t want to stay at the scene.

Fender Bender

Assault with a Vehicle

Photo by: Charles Wagner

20 year old Ethan Campbell Hansen of St. George, Utah was arrested for multiple misdemeanors as well as four felonies after being involved in a minor traffic accident during holiday festivities last week. The rear-ending accident itself was minor and would have likely ended in a traffic violation for Hansen of following too close. Unfortunately, the fender bender was just the beginning.

Traffic violation vs felony charges

Instead of waiting for police to come investigate the accident, Hansen attempted to flee. Two pedestrians were struck by Hansen’s vehicle, suffering minor injuries, while multiple others were able to get out of harm’s way. It was only then that Hansen decided to stay on scene. After authorities were able to obtain Hansen’s true identity and restrain him, he was booked into Purgatory Correctional Facility. His charges include:

• Two Class C misdemeanors for criminal mischief and leaving the scene of a pedestrian accident;

• Two Class B misdemeanor for interfering with an arrest and failing to disclose identity;

• One third degree felony for assault by a prisoner; as well as

• Three other third degree felonies for aggravated assault with a vehicle (dangerous weapon).

Assault with a vehicle

Photo by: Dean Strelau

Utah Code 76-5-103 states that “aggravated assault is an actor’s conduct that is
i. An attempt, with unlawful force or violence, to do bodily injury to another;

ii. A threat, accompanied by a show of immediate force or violence, to do bodily injury to another;

iii. An act, committed with unlawful force or violence, that causes bodily injury to another or creates a substantial risk of bodily injury to another; and

That includes the use of:

i. A dangerous weapon [any item capable of causing death or serious bodily injury]”

Although no weapons were located on Hansen or in his vehicle, assault with a vehicle has the potential to cause serious injury or death and is categorized along with other weapons when used in an assault.

Go big and go to jail

Photo by: Washington County Sheriff’s Department

With four misdemeanor and four felony charges to face in court, Hansen has the potential to face over 20 years in prison and fines totaling nearly $35,000. No one is sure why Hansen chose to escalate the situation, seeing as he isn’t known to be a violent offender or have any criminal history at all; He may have been simply trying to run away from the problems he caused. Many younger adults are not educated on how to property react to intense situations and fleeing can often seem the best course of action at the time. It is imperative that they are taught the importance of staying on the scene of an accident and not expanding the situation by reacting poorly. Anyone facing charges for a minor or serious offense is encouraged to seek guidance from this point out from a qualified criminal defense attorney.

Reckless burning vs Arson in Utah

Authorities are searching for information on the persons responsible for causing the wildfires that are tearing through Utah presently, but will those responsibility end up facing reckless burning or arson charges? What is the difference?

6,000 acres and counting

Photo by: U.S. Fish and Wildlife Services

The skies of southern and northeastern Utah are full of smoke as wildfires burn through nearly 6,000 acres of land. The Mackshaft fire that is 25% contained and has already consumed 2,453 acres of land is located southeast of Vernal near the city of Bonanza. The cause of that fire is still under investigation according to Utahfireinfo.gov. The Brian Head Fire located in very close proximity to the resort town of Brian Head, Utah east of Cedar City has been determined to be human caused. That fire has burned 2,761 acres of land so far and is being further fueled by hot, dry winds. The Brian Head Fire is currently at only 15% containment.

Fire rules and restrictions

With wildfire season upon us, strict rules are in place regarding when and where fires are permitted. Wildfires are more common during the hot, dry months of summer and by limiting the number of human caused fires during this time, fire officials can focus their energy and resources on naturally caused fires instead. When a human caused fire does occur, those individuals responsible may be expected to reimburse the state for the costs associated with controlling and extinguishing the fire. Additionally, they may face criminal charges for either reckless burning or arson. This depends on many factors including whether or not the fire was accidental or intentional and the cost of the total damage.

Reckless burning

Reckless Burning vs Arson

Photo by: Denis Dervisevic

Utah Code 76-6-104 discusses reckless burning and the penalties associated with charges. It states:

“(1) A person is guilty of reckless burning if the person:
(a) recklessly starts a fire or causes an explosion which endangers human life;
(b) having started a fire, whether recklessly or not, and knowing that it is spreading and will endanger the life or property of another, either fails to take reasonable measures to put out or control the fire or fails to give a prompt fire alarm;
(c) builds or maintains a fire without taking reasonable steps to remove all flammable materials surrounding the site of the fire as necessary to prevent the fire’s spread or escape; or
(d) damages the property of another by reckless use of fire or causing an explosion.
(2)
(a) A violation of Subsection (1)(a) or (b) is a class A misdemeanor.
(b) A violation of Subsection (1)(c) is a class B misdemeanor.
(c) A violation of Subsection (1)(d) is:
(i) a class A misdemeanor if damage to property is or exceeds $1,500 in value;
(ii) a class B misdemeanor if the damage to property is or exceeds $500 but is less than $1,500 in value; and
(iii) a class C misdemeanor if the damage to property is or exceeds $150 but is less than $500 in value.
(d) Any other violation under Subsection (1)(d) is an infraction.

Arson

Arson charges are much more severe than reckless burning as it involves intent or criminal activity leading up to the event. Arson charges usually arise when someone sets fire to the property of another such as a home or vehicle, however wildfires that are started intentionally have the potential to cause structural damage as well. According to Utah Code 76-6-102:
“(1) A person is guilty of arson if, under circumstances not amounting to aggravated arson, the
person by means of fire or explosives unlawfully and intentionally damages:
(a) any property with intention of defrauding an insurer; or
(b) the property of another.
Depending on value of the damage and whether or not injuries occurred as a result of the violation, charges for arson can range from a class B misdemeanor to a second degree felony.

Criminal Defense

Anyone facing charges for accidentally starting a fire (reckless burning) or intentionally starting a fire (arson) should immediately seek counsel with a reputable criminal defense attorney.