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Can police lineups be relied on?

On Behalf of | May 4, 2021 | Criminal Defense

There exist a number of different investigatory practices utilized by law enforcement throughout the state of California when it comes to crimes committed in the state. Among these tactics is the use police lineups to attempt to confirm the identity of a person thought to be the perpetrator of a crime. The commonplace use of police lineups raises the question of whether this is a reliable means…

Reliability of witness identification generally

A good deal of research in the criminal law arena has focused on the reliability of witness identification more generally. This includes crime scene witness identifications as well as those associated with police lineups.

The end result of this research has been and continues to be that witness identification can be quite unreliable. This includes witnesses at the scene as well as those who participate in police lineup identifications.

Improper manipulation of police lineups

Police lineups have the same type of unreliability associated with a crime scene. The bottom line is that witnesses make mistakes in identifying people, even when left to their own devices.

Police lineups are more problematic because law enforcement officials have a tendency to attempt to sway the identification made by a witness at a lineup. In some cases, this attempt to influence is intentional. In other instances, the conduct of police in influencing the decision of a witness at a lineup is not intentional but occurs nonetheless. In either situation, end result can be a witness at a police lineup making a mistake.


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