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Regulations set to standardize criminal lineup procedures

Florida state regulates the physical and photo lineup identification process in an attempt to avoid eyewitness misidentification.

There are a number of people who are wrongfully accused, charged and convicted of a crime in Florida and across the country. Eyewitness misidentification is just one factor that can lead to these judgement errors, which could send an innocent person to prison. In fact, eyewitness misidentification was involved in more than 70 percent of the cases that were overturned after DNA evidence showed that the suspect was wrongfully convicted of a crime, according to the Innocence Project. In order to minimize the risk that a person may be erroneously chosen out of an eyewitness lineup, some states have put in place standards that regulate how these procedures are conducted.

What is eyewitness misidentification?

In both physical and photo lineups, errors in the identification process may be caused by several factors. These include the following:

  • The lineup administrator may make misleading comments that could inadvertently cause the victim to choose a certain person.
  • The time elapsed between when the incident occurred to the time of the lineup can affect the victim’s ability to correctly choose a suspect from the lineup.
  • The pictures that are provided in a photographic lineup may not be uniform in color or size, which may cause one photo to stick out from the others.

Furthermore, the lineup may be organized in such a way that there is only one person present that matches the suspect’s physical description, causing the victim to choose that person. For example, if the perpetrator was said to be bald and have a mustache, there should be more than one person in the lineup that is bald and has a mustache.

Florida standards for eyewitness lineups

Surprisingly, many states do not have eyewitness lineup standards in place to regulate these procedures. Although mistakes may still be made, regulations can help to avoid these serious errors and minimize the risk that an innocent person will be chosen from a lineup. Each law enforcement department in Florida is required to formulate standards and report them to the state. As part of these standards, the lineup administrator must use a script when conducting a lineup to ensure instructions are consistent. Also, filler photographs and people used in the lineup should be similar to the actual suspect. Finally, each eyewitness lineup must be filmed or documented if later review is necessary.

Protecting your rights

Under the American judicial system, you are presumed innocent until proven otherwise in a court of law. It is crucial that you have someone in your corner that will protect your rights and make sure that you receive a fair trial. A defense attorney with experience handling criminal cases in Florida may help to answer your questions and provide comfort during this stressful time.