What is the Eyewitness Identification Reform Act?

With the Eyewitness Identification Reform Act, Florida legislators are taking steps to prevent misidentification of criminal suspects by eyewitnesses. According to Seth Miller, the Innocence Project of Florida’s executive director, 9 out of the 10 DNA-based exonerations in Florida involved eyewitness misidentification. The new law, signed by Governor Rick Scott in June 2017, places certain restrictions on law enforcement when conducting lineups.

Hopefully the Eyewitness Identification Reform Act works towards preventing innocent people from being put behind bars. Eyewitness identification is already a notoriously unreliable means of pointing out a criminal suspect, but it can still prove effective at persuading a jury. Criminal defense attorney Ron Herman challenges things like eyewitness identification to make sure his clients are provided with the most effective criminal defense counsel possible.

What is the Florida Eyewitness Identification Reform Act?

As of October 1st, law enforcement agencies must have a person who does not know a criminal suspect’s identity to conduct a lineup. These are called “blind lineups” and they will hopefully help prevent witnesses to criminal activity being persuaded in any way by a law enforcement officer knowing a suspect’s identity during a lineup. Law enforcement may use alternative methods in lieu of these “blind lineups.” Acceptable alternative methods may include automated computer programs that will directly flash photos to the witness or putting lineup photos in randomly numbered folders that would be hidden from the administrator’s view.

Additionally, under the new law, law enforcement should inform the witness of the following:

  • The suspect may or may not be in the lineup and, thus, they are not required to identify a suspect;
  • Excluding innocent people from the criminal investigation is equally important to identifying the suspected perpetrator; and
  • The investigation will proceed with or without the witness identifying the suspect in a lineup.

The Criminal Justice Standards and Training Commission, as well as the Florida Department of Law Enforcement, were both instructed to develop training programs and education materials on how to conduct lineups under the new law. Failure of law enforcement to comply with the new law may result in judges considering such a fact in deciding motions to suppress eyewitness identification. Additionally, defendants may use the noncompliance to argue a case of misidentification.

As it attempts to promote law enforcement to use evidence-based practices in lineups and eliminate, or at least reduce, the number of eyewitness misidentifications, the Eyewitness Identification Act was supported by the Innocence Project, the Innocence Project of Florida, and criminal defense attorneys across the state. The type of lineups prescribed by the new law is also supported by the U.S Department of Justice.

South Florida Criminal Defense Counsel You Can Rely On

Attorney Ron Herman is committed to fighting for his clients. A criminal conviction can have immediate and continuously pervasive effects on your life. Attorney Herman is here to protect your rights and fight any criminal charge you may face. Eyewitness misidentification has led to far too many innocent people being put in jail and Attorney Herman is committed to fighting such injustices.