Eyewitness Identification (ID)

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Criminal cases are won or lost daily based on eyewitness ID.  People are incarcerated unfairly based on wrong eyewitness ID.  People waste time in jail for crimes they did not commit based on eyewitness ID.  Identification plays a significant role in the criminal justice system.  Suppose a person sees someone with a gun running out of a liquor store that was just robbed.  That person will then give a description to cops of what he suspect looked like.  He or she may look at pictures of potential suspects, or sit down with a sketch artist to describe the person.  There are so many flaws with this system.

People’s memories are flawed.  People do not retain images as a camera would.  People miss certain facts, or remember what they want to remember.  Add the element of a crime taking place, and elevated heart rate and blood flow, and their ability to remember is even more impacted.  Even if a person is unbiased, they cannot remember everything.

Bias does play a significant role in eyewitness ID.  If a person thinks he or she knows who is committing the crime, they may give attributes of that person to the description.  Racial bias also plays an important role.  In scientific studies, cross-racial identifications are often wrong, as the person states how he or she perceives the race as a whole and does not look for distinguishing characteristics.

Lighting, distance and view inhibitors also play a major role in witness identifications.  If it is dark, then the witness cannot see as clearly.  If they are far away, or there is something in the way, likewise, it is impossible for the witness to see clearly.  If the person has been drinking, that plays a role.  There are so many factors to witness identification which can go wrong.  All aspects need to be considered and analyzed when a case hinges on witness ID.

Contact the Law Office of Stephanie M. Arrache, a criminal defense firm, if you have any questions about witness identification (ID).