What can be done to improve eyewitness identification?

Eyewitness have long been relied upon to identify perpetrators. However, they have also been under scrutiny for being unreliable. In Kentucky, you may find yourself accused of a crime simply because someone else said they saw you do it. If you even look similar to the actual person who committed the crime, you could be in trouble. However, there have been studies recently to suggest there are things that can be done by law enforcement to minimize the risk of erroneous eyewitness identification.

The National Center for State Courts outlines what law enforcement should do to avoid issues that could lead to your misidentification by an eyewitness as someone who committed a crime. This starts at the crime scene. If law enforcement on the scene suspects you of committing the crime, they may put you in handcuffs and even sit you in the back of a cruiser. Then, they may bring over witnesses and ask if you are indeed the perpetrator. This has a psychological effect on these witnesses because seeing you in handcuffs and essentially under arrest may lead them to believe you did it.

Another common way law enforcement may unintentionally sway an eyewitness is through the lineup process. Whether this is done with photos or actual people, it is often done with the person leading the investigation giving the directions to the witness. This person may give subtle cues that even he or she is unaware of when the witness identifies or even references you or your picture. These cues may cause the witness to make a false identification.

To avoid such issues, law enforcement should conduct identification in a controlled way. They should avoid having identifications done at the scene and have lineups conducted only by a neutral party. This information is only intended to educate and should not be interpreted as legal advice.

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