Rosenblum Schwartz & Fry

Continued look at lineups and their "critical stage" designation

Looked at from a criminal suspect's perspective, it is easy to see why great concern would reasonably attach to lineup procedures at a police station in St. Louis or elsewhere.

Put yourself in that individual's shoes. Might you not feel a bit strange and isolated if, say, your 6'6" frame was posed squarely in the middle of seven other people all several inches shorter than you? What if your racial identify is instantly differentiated from everyone else in line?

And what if you're bearded and everyone else is clean-shaven? What if you know that one of the police detectives standing beside a supposed witness on the other side of that one-way mirror knows you from a prior case? And what if the witness has bad eyesight and is less than confident regarding his or her instincts?

We noted in our January 31 blog entry that "even the most confident eyewitness can mistake the identity of the accused," which is why American judges view a lineup as a "critical stage" in the justice process.

What does the "critical stage" tag for lineups mean?

Foremost, the sharp judicial focus on lineups signifies this: the automatic right to legal counsel when a lineup occurs.

Put another way: If a defense attorney is not present to ensure a client's fundamentally fair treatment and full legal rights, lineup-derived evidence sought to be offered in court will be flatly excluded.

Many states and municipalities across the country have adopted increasingly evidence-based protocols and standards in recent years that seek to inject greater objectivity into lineup processes. Problems continue to occur in select cases, though, and judges are quick to act upon them once discovered.

Questions or concerns regarding lineups or other personal identification-linked issues can be directed to a proven criminal defense team.

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Rosenblum Schwartz & Fry

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