Are police lineups always reliable?

Individuals accused of crimes may find themselves directly involved in a police lineup with no idea how the situation will play out. Even though someone might be innocent, a confused victim could identify the individual as a perpetrator. Unfortunately, police lineups in Florida are imperfect and could lead to legal nightmares for innocent people.

Troubles with police lineups

One apparent problem with police lineups involves the basic fact that people make mistakes. Even though an eyewitness feels “sure” that he or she saw a specific person at a crime scene, the person could be wrong. Was the witness confusing the suspect with someone who looks similar or wore near-identical clothes? If so, then the witness might identify the wrong person.

Other factors could undermine a witness’s accuracy. Was the light poor? Was the witness too far away? All these things could undermine their ability to make an identification.

Other problems with lineups

If a lineup leads to someone facing charges, the trial could be many months away. The witness who identified the victim at the lineup may suffer from a fading memory. Alternatively, the witness’s credibility may come into question upon the discovery of additional facts.

Proof of police malfeasance may come to light. If the police coached or otherwise directed a confused witness to make a statement, the testimony might become invalid. The discovery of other wrongdoing may emerge to further harm the prosecution.

A criminal defense attorney may find problems with the results of a lineup to protect their client’s rights. The attorney might also raise doubt about a witness’s statement to assist a defendant’s case.