Appropriate lineup procedures in criminal cases play an important role in making accurate identifications. Lineup identifications are a common investigative tool used by Utah police. Photo lineups and in-person lineups present different potential problems.
In the absence of DNA evidence or fingerprint identification, police officers in many criminal cases rely on eyewitness identification in determining who to arrest and charge. Positive identification of a suspect is an important part of the investigative process. Even more important, however, is avoiding the incorrect identification of someone who was not involved in the crime. Chapter 8 of the Utah Code of Criminal Procedure (Title 77 of the Utah Code) governs law enforcement identification lineup procedures in criminal cases and imposes important procedural safeguards.
This page presents general information on criminal lineups in Utah, but should not be treated as legal advice. If you are facing criminal charges, having an experienced criminal defense attorney on your side is critical. Contact us to see how the right attorney can help you.
When a person has been arrested by police, Utah Code 77-8-1 allows police to require that person to appear and participate in a lineup identification procedure without a court order. If the person is not in custody, then police cannot force participation in a lineup without a court order. A person who is suspected of a crime may also request that the court order a lineup if the suspect can demonstrate that there is “good cause” (a good reason) for the lineup.
This section of the code allows for court-ordered lineups prior to the filing of charges. Although the statute does not specifically state, it also allows for court-ordered lineups during the pendency of a formal criminal court case.
Lineup Procedures in Criminal Cases – Right to Counsel
Under the Constitution, a person has the right to be represented by counsel at all critical stages of a criminal case. Utah Code 77-8-2 recognizes the right to counsel during lineup procedures in criminal cases. The statute requires that law enforcement officers conducting a lineup notify the suspect of the right to have an attorney present. The statute further provides that the courts must appoint an attorney to represent the suspect during the lineup when the suspect is “unable to employ counsel.”
Note that the right to be represented by counsel during a lineup applies only to in-person lineups. Because a suspect is normally not physically present during a photographic lineup, the right to be represented by counsel does not apply. Often these photographic lineups are conducted by police without any notice being given to the suspect.
Unbiased Lineup Procedures in Criminal Cases
Section 77-8-3 states that a peace officer who is conducting a lineup “shall not attempt to influence the identification of any particular suspect.” On its face, this seems fundamentally obvious. But there are more complicated issues involved here than what may be immediately apparent.
Subtle differences in actions or statements made by a police officer can sometimes unintentionally influence the outcome of a lineup. Police often ask “do you recognize the person” rather than “do you see the person.” The first option subtly implies that the defendant is in fact a part of the lineup even if that fact is still in question. Best practices for identification lineup procedures suggest telling the witness that the person may or may not be included in the lineup that they are about to see.
In-Person Lineup Procedures in Utah – Studies have shown that the procedures followed in conducting a lineup can affect the identification process. The level of similarity in appearance between participants can clearly affect identification outcomes. But positioning in a lineup, an officer’s tone of voice while instructing lineup participants, lighting, and a variety of other factors can affect the outcome of an in-person lineup. If these factors are intentionally manipulated by the officer conducting the lineup, the validity of the lineup identification can be compromised.
Photographic Lineup Procedures in Utah – Photographic lineups may in some ways be more susceptible to influence, as there is significantly more variation in how photographic lineups are conducted. One of the most important lineup procedure decisions is whether to use a sequential presentation or simultaneous presentation.
A simultaneous lineup presentation is sometimes referred to as a “six-pack” photo lineup. In this type of lineup, a single page containing six different pictures is presented to the witness. The witness is then asked if he/she can identify the person in question.
In a sequential photographic lineup, a series of pictures are given to the witness one at a time. The witness can look at each picture as long as is needed. But once the witness moves to the next picture, the witness is not allowed to go back to review previous pictures. Once (or if) the witness identifies an individual from a photograph, the lineup is finished. No further pictures are shown to the witness.
Advantages of Sequential Lineup Procedures
The reliability of eyewitness identification is an issue in every lineup identification. A key benefit of a sequential photo lineup is that it significantly reduces the risk that a witness may erroneously “identify” a suspect who most closely resembles the person who committed the crime. When presented with multiple pictures (or multiple suspects in an in-person lineup), the human brain naturally tries to identify the person who most closely matches the witness’ memory of the person originally seen.
By presenting pictures sequentially (one at a time), the brain is forced to focus on the identification of an individual rather than on merely finding similarities. Studies have shown that a sequential lineup presentation will reduce the number of false identifications without causing any significant decrease in the number of accurate identifications.
When law enforcement agencies have adopted sequential photo lineup procedures, the odds of convicting the right person remain relatively unchanged. But sequential photo lineup procedures significantly reduce the risk of wrongly convicting an innocent person. Many police departments still have been reluctant to adopt sequential procedures.
Recorded Lineup Proceedings
Recording of in-person lineup procedures in Utah is required under section 77-8-4. This includes both the identification portion of the lineup as well as “all conversations between the witnesses and the conducting peace officers.” This section of the Utah Code also requires that a suspect be allowed to review and make copies of the recordings and any photographs taken of all participants in the lineup.
Finding a Criminal Defense Attorney in Utah
If you or someone you love is facing criminal prosecution in Utah, it is vital to have the assistance of an experienced defense attorney. The criminal defense team at Canyons Law Group is ready to help. Contact us now to find out how the right defense can make a difference.