Florida moves to standardize eyewitness lineup procedures

Florida has set certain standards regarding the eyewitness identification process as a way to minimize wrongful convictions.

Eyewitness identification is used as evidence in many criminal cases in Florida and across the country. Despite jurors' and judges' tendencies to view this information as fact, studies show that eyewitness identification is inherently unreliable and often inaccurate. In fact, this form of evidence is responsible for sending innocent people to prison. Researchers have found that flaws in physical and photo lineup procedures, as well as limitations of the human memory, can lead to wrongful identifications. In order to minimize these errors from occurring, the Florida Department of Law Enforcement has developed a set of standards and guidelines that law enforcement agencies must use when conducting these lineups.

Eyewitness identification standards

According to the FDLE, each law enforcement department must use certain standards when conducting photo and/or physical lineups. These include, but are not limited to the following:

  • All instructions given to witnesses during a lineup procedure must be scripted in order to prevent inadvertent leading of a witness.

  • The lineup administrator must receive training on how to properly conduct the lineup process.

  • The entire lineup process must be documented.

The American Bar Association states the importance of letting the witness know that the perpetrator may or may not be present in the lineup. This makes it so witnesses do not feel obligated to choose someone, even if they are not confident in their choice. Furthermore, the lineup should be organized so that one person does not stand out. For example, if the perpetrator had a mustache, there should be more than one person in the lineup with a mustache. It is also important that the lineup administrator has no prior knowledge of the crime.

Eyewitness misidentification

According to the Innocence Project, 334 people have been released from prison after DNA evidence proved that they were innocent of the crimes they were convicted of. Approximately 72 percent of these cases involved eyewitness misidentification, making it the leading factor contributing to wrongful conviction. Florida was home to 12 of these cases.

Setting the record straight

When people are erroneously chosen out of an eyewitness lineup or they are charged with a violent crime in Florida, they may want to seek legal counsel from a criminal defense attorney. Being convicted or charged with a crime can change your life forever. It may be essential to have an experienced lawyer that you trust will help you through the legal process and help you to achieve the best outcome possible.