Three Ways an Eyewitness Can Point the Finger at You as the Person Who Committed the Crime
People are often charged with crimes based on an identification by an eyewitness. However, just because an eyewitness says it is so does not mean that it is true. In fact, there are many reasons why eyewitness identifications are not reliable. One reason witnesses mistakenly identify people is due to errors in the processes that the police set up for them to identify suspects. If you are being charged with a crime due to an eyewitness identification, understanding the different ways the police employ to get witnesses to identify a person could help you in developing a defense to the identification.
Three types of Eyewitness Identification
Eyewitness identification is where the witness identifies the person who committed the crime. The eyewitness may be a victim, someone who witnessed the crime, or other person involved in the crime who identifies one of the perpetrators in exchange for a reduced sentence. Often the methods used by the police in the identification process or the way the officers interact with the witness can make the identification anything but reliable. For example, the police could pressure a witness or provide details that the person does not really remember.
There are three methods of eyewitness identification used by the police. Each method has its own problems and include the following:
- Police lineups. In a police lineup, the suspect is grouped with other people not involved in the crime. The eyewitness identifies the person that he thinks committed the crime. Questions about the validity of the identification may be raised if only one person really stands out as looking like the suspect or the police suggest who the right person is.
- Showups. Showups are similar to lineups, but only the suspect is present. They are often utilized at crime scenes where the witness is asked to identify the person who committed the crime. There can be challenges to these identifications, such as that the "suspect" was obvious because he was handcuffed or already in the police car.
- Photo identification. With this type of identification, the police will show the witness several photos, with the suspect photo being one of them, and the witness tries to identify the perpetrator of the crime. These identifications can be challenged for reasons similar to police lineups.
Ideally, you want to contact an experienced attorney before the police asks a witness to identify you based on one of these methods to ensure that the process is at least fair. Even if you did not have your attorney present during a witness identification, you could have grounds to file a motion to suppress the witness identification. Call us to schedule a free, no-obligation consultation to discuss your situation and how our experienced criminal defense attorneys can help you get the charges against you dismissed or reduced to the least possible sentence.