Mistaken Identification Is More Common Than You Think
Victim and eyewitness accounts are sometimes the only element linking a crime to an alleged perpetrator. Unfortunately, innocent people can be victims of mistaken identification when those accounts are wrong. And this happens all too frequently.
Many factors can affect memory recall, especially for those who witness crimes or experience stressful or traumatic events. And our ingrained psychological biases make us more likely to identify a suspect that most fits our idea of a criminal rather than a person we actually saw. This happens unconsciously, which makes it even more unfortunate for the falsely accused. Mistaken identification is a leading cause of wrongful convictions in California. But if you were misidentified for a crime, you have a defense against your charges.
Mistaken Identification as a Defense
It is not uncommon for a victim or eyewitness of a crime to misidentify the perpetrator. This can happen for many reasons. Some argue law enforcement provide unethical suggestions to those tasked with identifying the criminal. They can even subtly influence witnesses by using certain words or touching on certain emotional triggers. Indeed, police bias does play a role in some cases of mistaken identification. Others argue witnesses can easily forget or be unable to accurately remember what the perpetrator looked like. When faced with a live lineup of suspects, it's easy for a witness to mistakenly think one of them is the perpetrator. In reality, these are just two causes for mistaken identification.
You should always fight your charges when you are misidentified as a perpetrator of a crime. Too many Californians are wrongfully convicted and spend many years in prison before proving their innocence. You should not trust solely in your innocence and the criminal justice system. Rather, you should work with an attorney experienced in handling mistaken identification cases. From there, you can figure out how to convincingly prove your innocence.
Defending Your Innocence
A trial is common in cases of mistaken identity. So your first step is to speak with an experienced California criminal trial attorney. It's best to involve an attorney as soon as possible. Sometimes witnesses identify who they think the suspect was and then, over time, convince themselves they were right, even if they started out unsure. If you wait to involve an attorney until later in your case, the witness may have already convinced himself or herself you were the person who committed the crime. At that point, it can be very hard to challenge the witness's testimony.
An attorney can take a number of steps to clear your name. For example, an attorney can ask for more lineups to give the witness more chances to identify the correct suspect. Also, an attorney can cross-examine the witness with carefully thought out questions used to strategically uncover the truth. Again, the sooner you involve an attorney, the more tactics he or she will have available to defend your rights.
Defense attorneys have used DNA evidence to successfully prove the innocence of thousands of wrongfully convicted people. But the DNA evidence must be collected and preserved for this to be a possibility. Perhaps the most effective method of reducing misidentification involves reducing racial bias in our society. But it's very likely many more people will be wrongfully convicted before that change takes place.
How Can Misidentification Be Stopped?
Many argue the criminal justice system must be reformed to reduce witness misidentification. But years of psychological research have yet to produce an effective method of doing this. Some suggestions include establishing double-blind lineups of suspects. This means neither the victim nor the case detective knows who the suspect is. This can reduce the power of persuasion the detective may have over the victim.
Never rely on your innocence alone to fight your charges. You need an experienced central valley California criminal defense attorney to face your charges. You are up against formidable adversaries including the State and the tendencies for human memory to fail us. You should have an attorney thoroughly evaluate your case and the facts and circumstances of your offense. Then, your attorney can take steps to prove you were a victim of mistaken identification. Is it fair you have to fight to prove your innocence? No. Is it necessary? In many cases, yes. Above all, it's important you always defend your rights so you don't suffer the fate of being wrongfully convicted.
Being accused of a crime is stressful, but experienced Visalia area criminal defense attorney Christopher Martens can help you face your charges. At The Law Offices of Christopher Martens, we can help you navigate the criminal prosecution process from start to finish and are not afraid to take your case all the way to trial. Martens has practiced criminal defense for over ten years and knows how to defend your rights. Contact our Visalia or Hanford offices at 559-967-7386 or email us at [email protected] to discuss a possible plan of action for your case.