Your rights are on the line in a police lineup

On Behalf of | Apr 17, 2018 | Criminal Defense

The protection of your civil rights is of the highest importance when you are accused of a crime. From the moment police begin to suspect you of involvement in some wrongdoing, your rights are at risk, and law enforcement is notorious for taking advantage of the fact that many people do not know or understand their rights.

Evidence will strengthen an officer’s suspicions that you participated in a crime, particularly if the evidence includes the testimony of witnesses who can place you at the scene of the crime or in other compromising circumstances. Investigators may ask a witness to identify you in person, and for this purpose, police may organize a lineup. Police lineups are a part of criminal procedure where the violation of your rights may easily take place.

Flaws in the system

You may have an attorney at your side at any point, and your inclusion in a police lineup is one of the times when legal counsel may be critical. There are many opportunities for irregularities, both accidental and intentional. In fact, the justice system is aware of the chance for a police lineup to violate your rights. Because of this, if a witness identifies you in a lineup that Tennessee police conduct without the presence of your attorney, a judge may exclude that identification from court.

Even though eyewitness accounts are seldom reliable, they are also powerfully persuasive to a jury. Nevertheless, there are numerous reasons why the person who identifies you in a lineup may be mistaken, including these:

  • A crime often happens very quickly, allowing little time for a witness to process what he or she sees.
  • If the person committing the crime uses a weapon, the witness is more likely to be looking at the weapon than the face of the person holding it.
  • Witnesses often allow their own experiences and biases affect the memories of what and whom they see at the scene of a crime.
  • Considerable time often passes between the time the event takes place and the time in which the witness is called to court to identify the suspect.
  • Police conducting the lineup may accidentally or intentionally suggest to the witness the identity of the suspect they hope to charge.
  • The method or system of presenting potential suspects to the witness may confuse or wrongly persuade the witness.

One study demonstrated the dangerous inaccuracies of police lineups by revealing that 75 percent of those incarcerated who were later vindicated through DNA tests had been misidentified by witnesses. If you are facing a lineup in which police hope to identify you as the perpetrator of a crime, you would do well to seek the advocacy of an experienced criminal defense attorney.


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