Eyewitness identification is where a witness identifies the perpetrator of a crime. Witnesses base their identification on actual physical perception of the crime. Identification is not based on hearsay or rumor.
An eyewitness is a person who has seen the crime or has knowledge of its commission. The eyewitness may be a victim, a bystander, or a participant in the crime who will testify in exchange for a lesser sentence.
The most common type of eyewitness identification is pretrial identification. This occurs before trial has formally started. Pretrial identification can occur in three basic ways:
Eyewitnesses can also identify a person under oath in court during direct and cross-examinations. For example, an attorney may ask the eyewitness to respond to the question, “Is this the person who committed the crime?”
Criminal defendants have a constitutional right to have an attorney present at all “critical stages of prosecution.” Under the 6th Amendment, the right to a criminal defense lawyer begins after prosecutors file formal charges.
With regards to pretrial identifications, the right to an attorney is as follows:
Identifications obtained through an unconstitutional pretrial identification cannot be used as evidence in court. For example, if an attorney was not present during a lineup, then identification cannot be used as evidence.
Normally, the court cannot use eyewitness identification if it was improperly obtained. But courts may allow the eyewitness to make an in-court identification validly verified. The witness' in-court identification must be based on an independent basis. For example, if the witness personally saw the crime being committed.
A criminal court will consider the following factors as an independent source:
Finally, whether an identification is made pre-trial or during trial, all evidence needs to be proven by the prosecution beyond a reasonable doubt.
Yes. The outcome of a criminal trial often depends on eyewitness identifications. An experienced criminal defense attorney can help ensure that your constitutional rights are not violated.
Last Modified: 04-07-2015 12:47 PM PDTLaw Library Disclaimer
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