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Police Lineup Identifications

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What Is a Police Lineup?

A police lineup is where an eyewitness identifies a suspect out of a group of five or six other people who fit the suspect’s description. The eyewitness will be instructed to stand behind a one-way mirror and point out the person that they believe committed the crime. The lineup identification usually occurs after charges have been filed but before trial has formally started. 

Sometimes the people in the lineup will dress the same way that the suspect appeared during the commission of the crime.  In some cases the police will ask the men or women in the lineup to say a phrase that was spoken during the crime, such as “Give me your money”. 

Police lineups are part of an overall judicial process known as eyewitness identification. Eyewitness identification also includes identifications through the use of:

  • Photographs
  • In-court identifications
  • “Showups,” which are similar to a lineup except that only the suspect is present and they are typically conducted at or near the scene of the crime. 

Can My Lawyer Be Present during a Lineup?

When someone is arrested and charged with a crime, they have a right to have an attorney present during “critical stages” of the prosecution. This includes police lineups for the purpose of eyewitness identification. An attorney ensures that the suspect’s rights are not violated during the lineup procedure.

If the suspect has requested a lawyer to be present during the lineup but they are denied one, this could be considered a violation of constitutional rights.

In addition to the right to have an attorney present during a lineup, suspects have several other rights. These rights may have been violated if:

  • The lineup identification process is unnecessarily suggestive. For example, if the police state, “he is the one who did it, right?”
  • There is a substantial likelihood of misidentification. For example, if in an attempt to make a suspect stand out, all of the decoys look different or are of a different race.

It is very important that lineups be conducted properly and that the eyewitness be given an opportunity to make a proper identification. If the witness has made an incorrect identification, it could be damaging for the outcome of the case. 

What Is the Remedy for an Improper Lineup Identification?

The remedy for an improper police lineup is to exclude the witness’ identification. Their testimony will not be allowed to be used in court if it is based solely on the improper identification. However, the subsequent in-court identifications by the witness may sometimes be utilized if it is supported by other independent evidence. 

Do I Need a Lawyer for Issues with Police Lineup Identifications?

You have a right to have a lawyer present during a police lineup identification. A criminal defense attorney can ensure that the lineup is conducted properly and that you are afforded all of your rights. 

Photo of page author Matthew Izzi

, LegalMatch Legal Writer and Attorney at Law

Last Modified: 06-27-2018 08:07 PM PDT

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