Law Enforcement in Pennsylvania Urged To Use New Eyewitness Identification Practices
In the criminal court process, eyewitness identification and testimony can play a very large role in the outcome, but recent studies have pointed out that this process is not as reliable as originally thought. In fact, the misidentification of persons involved in crimes results in hundreds of wrongful convictions every year. In an effort to correct this, the Pennsylvania District Attorney’s Association (PDAA), which provides training to prosecutors and guidelines to law enforcement, recently released significant new recommendations to assist law enforcement officers when they are conducting eyewitness lineups. The practices advanced by the PDAA are important steps toward making Pennsylvania’s eyewitness identification practices more reliable, neutral, and fair for all.
If you’ve been wrongly convicted of a crime or are a suspect in a case that relies on eyewitness credibility, the experienced Pittsburgh criminal defense attorneys at Worgul, Sarna & Ness, Criminal Defense Attorneys, LLC can help you. We’re familiar with best practices in Pennsylvania for eyewitness identification and have helped numerous clients ensure that they receive fair treatment under the law.
The Problems With Eyewitness Identification
Misidentification of suspects takes place in staggering numbers every year, not just in Pennsylvania but across the country. Organizations such as The Innocence Project, which supports criminal defendants, point to eyewitness identifications as being an easily manipulated tool. Administrators of lineups, photo arrays, or individual photos, for example, can have an implicit or explicit effect on an eyewitness’s selection, thereby compromising the witness’s selection.
Even though eyewitness identification has its limitations, the practice is still helpful in identifying suspects. The new recommendations advanced by the PDAA, help ensure fairer, more neutral, and more reliable eyewitness identification practices.
Best Practices for Eyewitness Identification
Under the Pennsylvania District Attorney’s Association’s guidelines, law enforcement officers are urged to adopt several key practices. These practices are designed to reduce bias and improve accuracy.
- Blind administration of photos—using an administrator who doesn’t know the suspect’s identity reduces the chance of influencing a witness during the administration of sequential or multiple photos
- Simultaneous photo array—presenting potential suspects in an array rather than presenting them individually, one-by-one, helps improve identification
- Neutral presentation of lineup—when an administrator presents a lineup, he or she should have a neutral stance toward each individual in the line up; this can be achieved through a non-suggestive presentation of the lineup
- Preservation of identification—recording all witness responses and preserving documentation relating to the identification process, including videotaping the identification session, can provide more transparent records of an identification session
The PDAA wants these practices to be adopted across the state, though ultimately it will fall to each district attorney’s office to adopt and implement these best practices.
How Our Pittsburgh Criminal Defense Attorneys Can Help
Worgul, Sarna & Ness, Criminal Defense Attorneys, LLC, we’re familiar with the problems of eyewitness identification and we’re pleased to see PDAA advance recommendations for equitable identification procedures. However, until all counties adopt the best practices put forward by the PDAA, we know that more work still needs to be done in our state.
If you’ve been wrongfully identified in a criminal case or have reason to believe your case rests on eyewitness credibility, contact Worgul, Sarna & Ness, Criminal Defense Attorneys, today. Our skilled Pittsburgh criminal defense lawyers can review your case and help fight to defend you against criminal allegations. To ensure that you receive fair treatment under law, call us at (412) 281-2146 today.