According to the Innocents Project of Florida, eyewitness identifications account for approximately seventy-five (75%) percent of all wrongful convictions, nationwide, that have been later overturned by DNA evidence.
Eyewitness identification has been cited as the single greatest cause of wrongful conviction in the State of Florida, yet Florida is one of the few states that do not have a statute regulating photographic or live lineup procedures and regulations.
Senate Bill 643 will implement requirements for any lineup that the counties, municipalities, the State, and other law enforcement agencies conduct in criminal proceedings. If approved, the Bill will become effective October 1, 2017. If you believe that you have been wrongfully identified as a suspect in a crime, then contact an experienced criminal defense attorney.
Contributors to Misidentifications in Florida
Many law enforcement agencies in Florida conduct eyewitness identification in two ways: live line-ups or photographic lineups. Live lineups mirror what you see in your favorite crime-thriller tv-show, where suspects line up behind a two-way mirror, and the witness picks an individual out of a line of people who look alike. A photographic lineup is a process of showing photographs to an eyewitness in order to identify or eliminate a suspect.
Studies have shown that multiple factors contribute to eyewitness misidentifications. Researchers have categorized these variables into two categories: estimator variables and systemic variables.
Estimator variables are things that are beyond the criminal justice system’s control. Estimator variables include the following factors:
- where the crime took place;
- the race of the victim;
- the race of the perpetrator; or
- whether a weapon was present.
Systemic variables, on the other hand, are things that can be controlled by the criminal justice system. Systemic variables include the following:
- the way the lineups are conducted;
- the order of the perpetrators;
- the way the police interact with the identifying witness;
- the things that police say to the witnesses;
- the pictures presented in a photographic lineup.
What Will SB 643 Do?
If passed, Senate Bill 943 will create a new Florida Statute, § 92.70 F.S., to establish the “Eyewitness Identification Reform Act.” First, the Act will provide definitions for necessary terms such as “eyewitness,” “lineup,” or “independent administrator.”
The Act will apply to any lineup conducted in the State of Florida, whether it is done by the State or by a different government entity in Florida. The Act will require that any lineup be conducted by an independent administrator. If it fails to provide an independent administrator, then it must conduct the procedure using an alternative method.
The alternative method must aim to achieve neutrality in the eyewitness process and to prevent the lineup administrator from knowing which photograph is being displayed during the procedure. The procedure may include the following:
- a procedure in which the photographs are randomly placed in numbered folders shuffled, and then given to the witness in such a way that the administrator cannot see or track the way the photographs are presented to the witness until after the completion of the procedure;
- an automated computer program that administers the photo lineup directly to the witness and prevents the lineup administrator from seeing which photograph the witness is viewing until after the procedure is complete; or
- any other procedure that achieves neutral administration and prevents the lineup administrator from knowing which photograph the witness is viewing until after the procedure has finished.
The Act will also require that the witness is given mandatory instructions before any lineup procession. The eyewitness must acknowledge the instructions in writing. If the witness refuses to make a written acknowledgment, then the lineup administrator must acknowledge the document. The instructions to the witness must include the following:
- the lineup administrator does not know the suspect’s identity;
- the perpetrator may or may not be in the lineup;
- the investigation will continue with or without an identification;
- the eyewitness should not feel compelled to make an identification; and
- it is as important to exclude innocent persons as it is to identify the perpetrator.
The Act also requires the Criminal Justice Standards & Training Commission (CJSTC) to consult with the Florida Department of Law Enforcement (FDLE) to create educational materials and training on how to conduct lineups in compliance with the Act.
Remedies for Failure to Comply
The Act also provides consequences and remedies for compliance and noncompliance with any of the above-listed requirements. Failing to comply with any part of the Act will result in the following:
- mandatory consideration of such failure by the court adjudicating a motion to suppress eyewitness identification; and
- evidence of such failure is admissible in support of a claim of eyewitness misidentification, as long as such evidence is otherwise admissible;
- if the evidence is admitted at trial, the Act requires that the jury is instructed that it may consider the evidence to determine the reliability of eyewitness identifications.
Attorney for Eyewitness Misidentification in Miami, FL
Being wrongfully implicated in a crime can have drastic effects on your life and way of living. It can certainly be devastating. According to statistics, eyewitnesses get their identification wrong seventy-five percent of the time. Having an experienced criminal defense attorney in this kind of situation will be invaluable in getting your charges dropped.
Talk to an attorney at Hubbs Law. Our lawyers have years of experience representing clients who have been misidentified in lineups by eyewitnesses. Our lawyers represent clients throughout Coral Gables, South Miami, The Crossings, Pinecrest, Dadeland, Kendall, and Palmetto Bay, Florida.
With offices located in South Miami, on Sunset Drive and an office in North Miami, located on 123rd Street, our previous cases have come from South Miami Heights, Cutler Bay, Princeton, Redland, Leisure City, Homestead, and Florida City, FL. We are committed to helping those accused of crimes.
Call (305) 570-4802 for more information about how one of our lawyers can help you.
Please note that by reading this blog you are not entering into an attorney-client relationship with Hubbs Law, P.A. This blog only provides general legal information. Every case is unique and you should request a consultation to ensure that you are getting the correct legal advice for your specific case.