A prosecutor seeks powerful evidence to get a criminal defendant convicted of a crime. Having an eyewitness testify that he or she saw the defendant commit the crime often is the key evidence a prosecutor needs to put a suspected criminal behind bars. To help witnesses identify a suspect, a police lineup often is used. Commonly, this is when the criminal suspect is placed in a line of other individuals who have had nothing to do with a crime. Each eyewitness is asked to look over the group and point out the suspect.
The Lineup Procedure
When a live, police lineup takes place, the prosecutor for the case and police officers are in attendance, typically. At times, a criminal defense attorney also may be present, if he or she has been retained to represent the suspect. Furthermore, an investigator, paralegal, law clerk and/or a witness to the procedure may be present to watch. An eyewitness then is asked to view and point out the person he or she believes to be responsible for the crime.
Should a Suspect Ask for a Lineup?
It often is the suspect’s right to demand a lineup. It is not advisable to seek one without first consulting with a knowledgeable criminal defense lawyer. The benefit of a police lineup would be that the eyewitnesses were not able to positively identify the suspect. This may cause the police to investigate another suspect instead. However, the disadvantage is that the suspect is correctly identified, even if he or she really did not commit the alleged crime.The police can usually dictate what participants wear during a lineup and if they are allowed to say anything. Dressing the participants as the culprit was dressed, and having them speak words that the culprit used, could increase the likelihood that an eyewitness’s identification is accurate. This also is something to keep in mind.
Problems with the Lineup
At times, law enforcement officers have given an eyewitness a clue as to who to point out. Police officers have, either intentionally or by accident, given an eyewitness a signal as to who the correct suspect is. Another issue with the lineup is that some of those who participate do not match the description of the suspect at all, making one individual stick out as the alleged offender. Another potential problem with the police lineup is that eyewitnesses feel pressured to point out someone in a lineup, even if they are not confident it is that person. They may end up comparing individuals in a lineup to each other, rather than to their memory of the suspect.
Talk to a Criminal Defense Attorney
If you have been asked to participate in a police lineup in California, it is best to first consult with a skilled criminal defense attorney concerning the matter. When facing a criminal court case, it is crucial to work with a skilled defense lawyer who can advise you on the law and how it applies to your case. If you are in need of a criminal defense attorney, the Law Office of Peter Blair is here to help. Contact us today to set up a free consultation to discuss your case and your options moving forward.