Zweig Law, PC Attorneys at Law

Colorado one of 25 states to reform police lineup laws

The rules dealing with police lineups were changed in Colorado when Governor John Hickenlooper signed Senate Bill 15-058 into law in April 2015. Traditional lineup procedures have long been criticized by civil rights advocates, and studies have discovered that honest citizens often make identifications despite being unsure because they are eager to do their part and help the police fight crime. However, it was the introduction of DNA evidence that spurred lawmakers in Colorado and 24 other states to introduce new lineup rules.

DNA evidence gives prosecutors a scientifically incontrovertible way to link an individual with a crime scene or piece of evidence, but it can also be used to prove that inmates who have sometimes spent decades in prison did not commit the crimes they were convicted of. When the Innocence Foundation studied 350 convictions that were overturned by post-conviction DNA evidence, they discovered that eyewitness misidentification was a factor 71 percent of the time.

Colorado now requires police to conduct what are known as blind lineups. In a blind lineup, the police officer or administrator assisting the witness does not know who the suspect is. Senate Bill 15-058 also requires police to tell witnesses that the lineup or photo array may or may not contain a suspect and that investigations will continue whether or not an identification is made. Police must also record what witnesses say verbatim and monitor their reactions closely.

Experienced criminal defense attorneys in Colorado may study the records that Senate Bill 15-058 requires police departments in the state to keep carefully. These notes and recordings are designed to reveal how confident or hesitant witnesses were when they made identifications. Attorneys may argue that prosecutors have failed to meet their burden when questionable identifications are not supported by compelling forensic or physical evidence.

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