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Sometimes a police lineup can be a violation of constitutional rights

The Constitution grants us all the fundamental right to a fair trial when we encounter the criminal justice system. However, sometimes police try to use techniques that violate the criminal defendant’s constitutional rights and encroach upon their opportunity to build a solid defense. A lineup is one of the many places in which the police violate a person’s civil and constitutional rights.

How police lineups work

A lineup is a technique that police use in an attempt to obtain identification of the perpetrator by a crime victim or other witness. It involves the police lining up several persons of interest, one or more of which may be a suspect of a crime. The witness is then asked if they can positively identify the perpetrator of the crime out of the lineup.

The problem, however, is that sometimes police arrange the lineup in such a way as to be overly prejudicial towards their suspect, increasing the likelihood that the witness will choose them. This is a gross violation of that suspect’s constitutional rights.

Improper lineup techniques

For example, let’s say that the police include one very tall person and several short people in the lineup – or one person of one race and all the others of a different race. Both of these scenarios – and others like them – are clearly designed to draw the witness’s eye toward one particular individual, thus increasing the likelihood that the witness will be convinced that that individual is the perpetrator.

The purpose of a lineup is to give the witness a chance to see several people in completely neutral and equal circumstances, to see if they can identify the perpetrator. Anything the police do to draw undue attention to one particular member of the lineup destroys that purpose – and can lead to wrongful convictions and other undesirable results.

It’s important for you to remember that you have a constitutional right to have an attorney present at every critical stage of the criminal justice process – including during a lineup. Attorneys have training in identifying violations of constitutional rights during police lineups, and they will be able to make sure that the police conduct the lineup in a constitutionally proper way, so that your rights are protected and respected.

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