Eyewitness evidence is not always reliable

On Behalf of | Aug 1, 2020 | Criminal Defense |

“It was him. He did it. I’d recognize him anytime.” That may be all it takes to send you to prison for a very long time — one eyewitness who swears it was you.

If you are in a police lineup, many things could go wrong. For this reason, courts will not admit eyewitness evidence given in a lineup, unless the defense attorney was present to spot any flaws, errors or prejudices. Even if the identity parade was correctly implemented, humans make mistakes.

These are some of the reasons a witness to a crime may wrongly identify you:

  • Poor observation: If a crime happens in broad daylight, a meter away, you might get a good look at the perpetrator. What about if their back is to you? What if they are across the street, at night, in the rain? Witnesses do not always get a good long look, and some people are not that observant or do not have 20/20 vision.
  • Poor memory: Some people have better memories than others, and memory can vary with tiredness, alcohol or drugs. Even the time of day and lighting in an area can affect some people’s memories.
  • Disguise: It doesn’t take much of a disguise to distort someone’s appearance. A man can be disguised as a woman, and vice-versa. Hair color, skin tone and facial characteristics can easily be altered.
  • Errors with the line up: How a line up happens can affect the results. Candidates need to be shown side by side to allow comparison. If the people are not sufficiently similar, one person may stand out. A police officer’s body language may influence who gets picked out.

If you are asked to be in a Rock Hill police lineup or face charges based on an eyewitness naming you, consult a criminal defense attorney. Being wrongly identified could see you wrongly convicted.



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