Eyewitness Lineup Procedures Seek to Reduce Misidentification

Posted on in Criminal Defense

suspect lineup, Illinois law, Cook County Criminal Defense AttorneyYou have probably seen it dozens of times on TV procedural dramas. A crime victim or potential witness stands behind a one-way mirror while a small parade of suspects are lined up for the purposes of identification. While not definitive evidence, the witness’s recognition of a suspect provides a basis for the continuing investigation. In the real world, lineups are also used in criminal cases to help narrow down a suspect list and, sometimes, as a form of testimony. Unfortunately, however, eyewitnesses are not always reliable sources of information and mistakes have led to the conviction of many innocent suspects. That is why the state of Illinois has developed a statutory procedure for lineups which took effect at the beginning of this year.

Photographic Lineups

Unlike the common television trope, most lineups in Illinois utilize photographs, although live lineups are still used in some cases.  However, “cognitive bias” by the lineup’s administrator, including subconscious cues or body language, can unintentionally affect the results of such procedures. To combat such influences, the new law requires law enforcement departments to have an independent administrator conduct the lineup. The administrator must be an individual with no knowledge of the case or the identity of the suspects. In addition, the lineup must be recorded on video whenever possible to ensure compliance with proper protocols.

Sequential or Simultaneous Presentation

Lineup administrators may, at their discretion, present at least six photographs, including the suspect, to the witness all at once or in a random order. If six is not reasonable, the lineup must consist of no less than four to be valid. The witness is required to examine all of the pictures, even if he or she identifies a suspect prior to seeing all of them. If the witness does not make an identification, the administrator may not force him or her to do so. Additionally, the elimination of possible suspects—“it was definitely not number 3,” for example—is considered as important as pointing out the perpetrator.

Multiple Witnesses

If the lineup is to be conducted with more than one witness, officials are required to keep the witnesses separated and randomize the order of photographs again for each one. This is meant to prevent communication between the witnesses regarding the lineup and inadvertent influences. At the conclusion of the lineup, the administrator must prepare a full written report, which, along with video, is to be provided to the accused’s attorney.

When you have been charged with a crime, law enforcement officials must carefully follow all procedural guidelines or the charges against you could be dismissed. If you believe your rights have been compromised by any improper police procedures, including lineup techniques, contact an experienced Chicago criminal defense attorney. As a former prosecutor, Attorney Hal Garfinkel understands how to identify procedural errors and is equipped to help you protect your rights. Call today to schedule your free consultation.


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