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Illinois Modifies Police Lineup Procedure over Reliability Concerns

Posted on in Criminal Law

McHenry County criminal defense attorney, police lineup, police lineup procedure, eyewitness lineup identification, criminal defense, criminal investigationEyewitness testimony is often thought of as a highly accurate piece of evidence when it is brought before a jury. However, people's eyes often play tricks on them, and the fact that someone says they saw something does not make it true, even if the person earnestly believes what they think they saw. One area where this problem is particularly prevalent is with the police lineup.

Police lineups are processes where the police present a set of people to a witness, and the witness can then point out who they believe to have committed the crime. The police can perform these lineups by showing all the possible offenders at once, or they can show them one at a time. Similarly, they have the option of showing the witnesses as the people in person or through photographs. Simple changes to these types of procedural decisions can often have a big impact on the accuracy of lineup identifications.

The Problems with Police Lineups

Police lineups can often face a slate of procedural problems that reduce their accuracy. For instance, procedural decisions about who to include in a lineup can make witnesses more prone to pick a suspect. If the police include one person who stands out of the lineup, say by having one person of a different race or only one person with a beard, then people may be more prone to pick the different person. This is especially true when the characteristic that differs was part of the witness' description.

Another common issue that can contaminate eyewitness lineup identifications is if the witnesses are not given proper instructions. This sort of problem can come in many forms, but one of the most common is if the person administering the lineup does not tell the witness that the actual perpetrator may not be present. This can lead to the witness feeling pressured to name someone, even if they are not confident in their ID.

Illinois' New Law

In order to combat these and other problems with police lineups, the Illinois legislature recently passed a new law that mandates the use of specific procedures. The law requires police to use similar looking people in the lineup, and it lists a set of mandatory instructions that the administrator needs to give. It also makes other changes, such as requiring the use of certain procedures to obscure the identity of the suspect from the administrator, so that the administrator does not influence the witness consciously or unconsciously. It also requires the police to record the lineups whenever practical.

If you have recently been identified in a police lineup or otherwise charged with a crime, you need to know more about your rights. Contact a McHenry County criminal defense attorney today to make sure you have someone on your side.
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