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How reliable are police lineups?

On Behalf of | Apr 28, 2021 | Criminal Defense |

Individuals in Oklahoma and elsewhere are sometimes charged and convicted of crimes based on witness identification. These include identifications made by eyewitnesses to an alleged criminal event. This also includes identification made during lineups facilitated by law enforcement. In recent years, those involved in the criminal justice system, from prosecutors to criminal defense attorneys to judges, have come to understand that witness identification can be unreliable.

What are lineups?

Police lineups involve placing a criminal suspect in a line with other individuals. This line of individuals is placed in front of one-way glass, which permits a witness the ability to see the lineup but prevents those lined up from seeing any witness. The witness is called upon to attempt to select the alleged perpetrator from individuals in the line.

How reliable are they?

Researchers have demonstrated that mistaken identity is the leading cause of wrongful convictions in the United States. This includes mistaken identities derived from police lineups. Research was undertaken on 200 convictions that ultimately were overturned through the use of DNA evidence, and 80% of these convictions included at least one mistaken eyewitness.

A number of different dynamics are at play during a police lineup that can render a witness identification inaccurate, thus forming the basis of a defense under criminal law. Relevant factors include the manner in which a witness is instructed to attempt to identify a suspect in a lineup. For example, there are a multitude of instances in which police officers have implied that a witness needs to make a selection, which in fact is never the case. The actual offender may not be in the lineup, leading witnesses to identify the wrong person.

If you’ve been charged with a crime based in all or in part on witness identification, that may be a significant defense to the charges. An important way to support your case is by retaining a capable defense lawyer.