A criminal suspect may be put in a lineup so that a witness, who may also be the victim of the crime, may identify him or her. The goal of the lineup is to build crucial evidence for the prosecution. Police lineups are common in popular media such as procedural dramas, but they don't always show the whole story. Here are three more things you need to know about lineups:

You May Be Forced Into It

If you are a criminal suspect, then you may not have a say on whether or not you are put in a lineup. According to nolo.com, the police have the authority to force you to participate in a lineup. It may seem like a violation of your Fifth Amendment privilege against self-incrimination, but this is not the case because a lineup isn't testimony.

The good news is that you can only be forced into a lineup if you have been arrested. If you haven't been arrested, then you have the option of refusal. As a general rule, it's in your best interest to refuse such a request to reduce your chances of misidentification.

It's Not Perfect

Another thing you should know about police lineups is that they are not perfect. Misidentifications occur due to a variety of reasons, for example

  • A witness with fuzzy memory may misidentify you
  • The investigator's reactions may influence the witness to point at you
  • The non-uniformity of the lineup may leave you standing out and more likely to be picked as the perpetrator

This is one of the reasons you need your attorney present during the lineup. Other measures instituted to prevent lineup misidentification include making the lineup uniform and having another person, other than the lead investigator, to conduct it. Still, misidentification still accounts for the majority of wrongful convictions overturned by DNA evidence.

You May Request It

Apart from being forced into one, some states also allow suspects to request lineups. You may be tempted to request a line up, but it's generally not a good idea. By doing so, you are giving the police ammunition to build a case against you if you are identified. As discussed above, your innocence does not guarantee that the witness will not identify you as the guilty suspect.

The issue of a lineup is a complicated one. Whereas you may wish to volunteer to clear your name, you are also putting yourself at risk of strengthening the prosecutor's case. This is something to discuss with an  attorney, such as Robert S Fisher P.C., before making a decision.