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Eyewitness Misidentification: A Major Reason for Wrongful Convictions

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Eyewitness misidentification occurs when a victim or a witness identifies someone by mistake as the perpetrator of a crime, even though the person is innocent. When the accused person did not commit the crime and is unaware of the charges they are facing, they must seek the help of criminal defense lawyers.

A criminal defense lawyer can help you challenge eyewitness misidentification.

Meaning of Eyewitness Misidentification

Eyewitness misidentification happens when a victim mistakenly identifies someone as the perpetrator of a crime, even though the person did not partake in the crime.

Misidentification happens during:

  • Lineups: When a witness has to identify the perpetrator from a group of individuals
  • Show-ups: When a witness is shown a person near the crime scene
  • Photo arrays: When a witness is shown a group of photos
  • In-court identifications: When the witness is asked to recognize the perpetrator in court

Challenges in Eyewitness Misidentification

There are numerous challenges involved in eyewitness misidentification. They include:

  • Human memory limitations: It’s not possible for someone to take in some memories and remember them at a later date. Details like somebody’s appearance, weight, hair and eye color, and height may be overlooked most of the time.
  • Stress and anxiety: In crime scenes, an individual can easily be stressed and anxious. This decreases a person’s ability to be keen on observing some facts and recalling them at a later date.
  • Police procedures: The police usually use techniques to find perpetrators who are suggestive or misleading. For example, when an investigating officer knows that a perpetrator is in a lineup, they may give clues to the witness to pick a specific person.
  • Cross-race biases: This is a tendency to easily identify or recognize faces of the race they are familiar with.
  • Focus on weapons: In most crimes, witnesses focus on the weapons used against them instead of the perpetrator. It means that a witness will remember the weapon used in great detail but will not be able to offer sufficient details about the person who committed the crime. 
READ  5 Important Steps to Building a Strong Defense

What Happens in the Event of Eyewitness Misidentification?

When an eyewitness wrongly identifies a perpetrator, there are two consequences. They include:

  • The criminal investigation comes to an end earlier than it should be
  • Innocent people get arrested and charged with a crime

More About Eyewitness Misidentification

courtroom drama

Eyewitness misidentification has been a huge problem for a very long time. There are new laws that help prevent eyewitness misidentification.

For example, in California, a new law was formed in 2018—Senate Bill 923. This bill greatly reduces eyewitness misidentification.

The following is some useful information regarding eyewitness misidentification:

  • The eyewitness gives a description of the suspected person before conducting the identification procedure.
  • Police officers mandated to conduct a lineup must not be knowledgeable about the suspect’s identity to prevent suggestiveness.
  • Before the procedure, the eyewitness is to be notified that the perpetrator may be in the lineup, have photos, or be missing.
  • There are no utterances to be made during the procedure that may influence the eyewitness’s decision on the alleged suspect.
  • All eyewitnesses are to be separated during the identification procedure.
  • After the identification process, a witness provides a statement showing their level of confidence in the identification.
  • The identification process is to be videotaped.

Seek Legal Help Today

With the help of a lawyer, you are better placed to defend yourself against wrongful identification. Some officers may have done some malice somewhere to fix you while you’re innocent. Get the help of expert lawyers to help you argue your case today!

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