What is a Photo Lineup?

Criminal LineupYou’ve probably seen lineups in the movies or on your favorite TV crime show with a number of suspects all standing against a wall while a victim tries to identify a criminal. Although this is sometimes how a line-up happens, it is not the only way a suspect can be identified. Photo lineups are a common procedure to help a victim identify possible suspects of a crime, and it’s not as casual of a process as it may seem on your television screen. There are actually very strict practices that relate to such line-ups, and depending on how the procedure was undertaken, the identification may provide powerful evidence either for prosecution or for the defense.

Photo Lineup

Legally defined, a photo lineup (otherwise called a photo array or photo display), is when an officer shows a set of pictures to a victim to see if he or she recognizes the perpetrator of a crime. A positive identification could lead to an arrest and the identification can be used as prosecutorial evidence in court.

There is a very specific set of rules that the police must follow to ensure that the victim is identifying the right suspect in a police lineup. Police cannot be suggestive while presenting the photos, and if they are, the evidence may be inadmissible in court. To avoid being suggestive, police will typically include up to six photos in one photo lineup and may also provide multiple sets, known as arrays. The lineups should all include suspects who are similar in appearance.

Illinois passed a photo lineup law some years ago specifically outlining the suggested process in order to combat wrongful convictions. Under the law, police must use an automated computer system or random photo generator to present the photos. The identity of the suspect must also be hidden from the photo lineup administrator. Photos must be presented either simultaneously or sequentially at the discretion of the officer administering the lineup. Police must also present every photo in the lineup, even if the victim has made a positive identification early on.

How a Criminal Defense Attorney Can Help

One problem with photo lineups is that a criminal defendant does not have the right to have an attorney present until he or she is formally charged or indicted. Furthermore, defendants do not have the right to conduct a hearing to block the presentation of a photo lineup. Once the photo lineup evidence goes to court however, a criminal defense attorney will be able to challenge witnesses during cross-examination. Some possible areas of attack include attempting to prove the photographic identification process was unduly suggestive or that an officer compelled the victim to make an identification and therefore should be regarded as inadmissible.

Contact an Experienced Attorney Today

Wrongful convictions no doubt have the ability to destroy lives. The criminal defense attorneys at Mitchell S. Sexner & Associates LLC work to combat improper criminal charges as efficiently and promptly as possible. If you have been positively identified in a photo lineup, there are options for your legal defense. Don’t hesitate to call our offices as our phone lines are open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, with convenient office locations including Arlington Heights and Chicago. Contact us today at (800) 996-4824 for a free initial consultation.