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New Jersey Criminal Defense Lawyers Discuss Tough New Eyewitness Identification Standards

This September, the state of New Jersey will implement stronger eyewitness identification standards.  The New Jersey Supreme Court recently issued expanded instructions that will hold law enforcement officers as well as jurors to higher standards. These enhanced standards may make it easier for New Jersey criminal defense lawyers to argue flawed eyewitness identification.

Under the Supreme Court’s ruling, police officers and detectives will be required to record the entire witness identification lineup or photo identity line up electronically.  If the police officers fail to record the lineup, then the identification can be thrown out.

The New Jersey Supreme Court also expanded instructions to jurors, holding them to higher witness identification standards.  Jurors are now cautioned to consider a number of factors that could make identifications less than 100% reliable. For example, judges must warn jurors that identification may be hampered when witnesses are stressed out and fatigued.  In addition, poor lighting can also unduly influence identification.  Further, differences between the race of the suspect and the race of the witness may also influence identification.  According to the New Jersey Supreme Court, evidence indicates that some witnesses may find it harder to identify members from a different race than their own.

Additionally, there may be problems during the identification lineup.  If enough time has passed between the witnessing and the lineup, it could unduly influence identification.  Further, police officers who behave aggressively at the lineup may also influence witnesses.

Law enforcement and criminal prosecutors rely on eyewitness testimony in an estimated eighty thousand cases annually. New Jersey criminal defense lawyers know that, in many instances, cases tried based on eyewitness identification alone are inherently flawed and can lead to the conviction of innocent people. The Supreme Court’s new eyewitness rules now makes New Jersey's jury instructions for eyewitness identification some of the most detailed and precise in the country. These standards are likely to influence other states’ standards as well.

The New Jersey criminal defense lawyers at Helmer Paul Conley and Kasselman represent persons who have been charged with DUI, drug crimes, sex crimes, murder, fraud, assault and other crimes across New Jersey.

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