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Will criminal lineup practices lower wrongful convictions in FL?

Officials hope that rules regarding criminal lineup procedures in Florida will decrease the number of people who are wrongfully convicted of a crime.

A large number of criminal cases in Florida involve the use of eyewitnesses. Studies show that when an eyewitness identifies a person as the perpetrator of a crime, a jury is more likely to find that person guilty, according to PBS.org. Sadly, eyewitness identification has contributed to the wrongful conviction of innocent people. Some of these erroneous convictions were the direct result of flaws in the identification process. In an attempt to reduce the occurrence of these errors, Florida officials require law enforcement departments across the state to abide by certain standards when conducting physical and photographic lineups.

Meeting the standards

Researchers have found that eyewitness identification can be influenced by suggestion, environmental factors, anxiety, racial variances and an unclear recollection of what actually happened during the incident. When witnesses are asked to choose a perpetrator out of a lineup, their choice may be affected by the following, according to the American Bar Association:

• Whether the lineup administrator has previous knowledge of the crime and inadvertently prompts the witness to choose a specific person out of the lineup.

• A poorly constructed lineup that causes a person to stand out from the others because of his or her physical similarities to the suspect.

• The photos presented in the lineup are different sizes or have markings that may set them apart from the other photos.

• After the witness makes an identification, the administrator makes comments indicating that the witness has done well.

According to the Florida Department of Law Enforcement, the state’s law enforcement agencies have standardized the lineup process in order to reduce the occurrence of these factors. Not only are lineup administrators required to use a script when accompanying a witness through the lineup procedure, but they must avoid using any actions that could affect a witness’s decision. In addition, all lineup procedures must be recorded to ensure that they are conducted properly.

Innocent found guilty

According to the Innocence Project, 330 people have been released from their prison sentences after DNA evidence proved that they were innocent. Approximately 72 percent of these cases involved eyewitness misidentification.

Ensuring that the same standardized procedures are used in law enforcement agencies across the state can help to lower the risk that the wrong person will be identified.

Understanding your legal options

If you have been charged with a crime in Florida, you may feel overwhelmed and unsure of where to turn for help. You may want to speak with a criminal defense attorney who fully understands the scope of Florida’s law. An attorney can listen to the details of your case and help to answer any questions you may have.