Joseph J. Colarusso, Attorney at Law
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Are eyewitness lineups accurate and reliable?

If you have been charged with a crime in Connecticut, you may be forced to participate in an eyewitness lineup. While many states in the nation implement these procedures, multiple studies show that this method of identifying a suspect can be inaccurate and often yields unreliable results. According to the Innocence Project, more than 70 percent of documented wrongful convictions in the U.S. involved eyewitness misidentification, making it one of the leading causes of conviction errors. The problem not only lies in faulty lineup procedures implemented by law enforcement departments, but also in flaws involving the human memory and the way the brain functions under stress.

There are several problems that may occur during a physical lineup. You may be the only one in the lineup that matches the perpetrator’s description, which increases the chances of you getting picked. For example, if the suspect was said to have a tattoo and beard, there should be more than one person in the lineup with a tattoo and beard.

The witness may be misled by the lineup administrator as he or she is going through the process. Any comments made by the administrator may unintentionally lead the witness to choose a certain person from the lineup. It is best if the administrator does not know anything regarding the case or the charges. Some law enforcement departments also require lineup procedures to be taped for later review in court if necessary.

This information is intended to educate and should not be taken as legal advice.

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