New Jersey Eyewitness Identification Challenge Lawyers
New Jersey is among the most progressive states when it comes to the judgment of eyewitness identification. This gives defendants in New Jersey opportunities that defendants in other states may not have to challenge eyewitness identifications placing them at the scene of crimes.
Changes in NJ Eyewitness ID Law
Wade hearings, stemming from Supreme Court’s decision in United States v. Wade, 388 U.S. 218 (U.S. 1967), are pretrial processes applied in criminal hearings to determine the validity of witness identifications. The New Jersey Supreme Court reassessed the procedures used in determining whether eyewitness identifications were subject to impermissively suggestive procedures. In State v. Henderson, 27 A.3d 872 (N.J. 2011), the New Jersey Supreme Court considered factors which may affect an individual’s memory and divided them into lineup procedures, controlled by police, and estimator variables, including the witnesses age, lighting at the scene of the crime, lapse of time between the event and ID as well as other similar variables over which the police have no control.
System Variables, which the police may influence, include:
- Blind administration- The administrator does not know where in the lineup the suspect is.
- Lineup construction- Factors which may affect whether the suspect stands out in the lineup.
- Feedback- Any feedback confirming a witness’ choice.
- Multiple viewings- Showing the defendant in photos and a lineup.
- Show ups- Single person lineups that frequently are undertaken at the scene of the crime.
Estimator Variables, which are related to a witness’ ability to recall, include:
- Weapons- In the event a witness sees a weapon, they are likely to be more focused on the weapon than the individual holding it.
- Stress- High levels of stress can enhance or reduce the ability of a witness to recall a scene.
- Distance and lighting- Distance, darkness, glare and other factors can affect a witness’ ability to accurately see details needed to differentiate a suspect from another.
- Duration of the event- The length of time during which the witness had opportunity to observe defendant.
- Perpetrator characteristics- Changes in hair color, length, facial hair, disguises and the like can change the appearance of defendants.
- Witness characteristics- Intoxication, mental state, age or other factors can bear on identification.
- Race-bias- Identification of a member of another race may be more difficult than identification of the witness’ own race.
- Memory- A greater length of time between the witness’ observation of the event and the identification can cause the witness’ memory to fade or change through influence.
- Influence of others- If the witness has discussed the event with others, especially other witnesses, it is likely his or her own memory will be impacted.
- Speed of identification – Some in the scientific community believe that a more rapid identification by the witness indicates the witness certainty as to the identification.
How We Can Help You
Let the experienced criminal law attorneys at The Darling Law Firm put our experience to work for you. We will challenge inappropriate police procedures and any estimator variables that are likely to be subject to error in your matter. If you have been charged with a crime and believe an eyewitness ID may have a substantial affect on your case, we will challenge that ID and any other issues which may be subject to challenge as violative of your rights. To have us begin protecting your rights immediately, call 973-584-6200 to obtain the services of our firm or click here to e-mail us.
The Darling Law Firm has locations in Morris and Bergen County, New Jersey and Bucks County, Pennsylvania to conveniently serve our clients in New York, New Jersey and Pennsylvania.
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